Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Chronicle Reporter
AFTER a year of hard work, the festive season marks a time when diasporans get the chance to come back home to reunite with their families and to spend quality time with their loved ones.
Some families take advantage of the period to hold family celebrations; there are parties and weddings.
This year, it looks likely that it would be different as some diasporans are pondering whether or not come back home during the festive season because of the new Covid-19 induced regulations aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. Travel restrictions that have been put by a number of countries are likely to limit travelling this festive season, a development also affecting Zimbabweans in foreign lands who may want to return home.
According to new regulations, all returning residents and visitors shall be subjected to mandatory PCR testing notwithstanding that they present a PCR negative test result from elsewhere.
Those found to be negative will be quarantined at their own cost for 10 days and those in quarantine will be retested after 5 days.
Those who are found to be PCR positive or have signs and symptoms will be isolated.
The regulations also state that returning residents and visitors who have been outside the country for more than 14 days found to be negative will be subjected to a mandatory 10-day quarantine at designated public or private quarantine facilities at their own cost, while those that have been outside the country for a period less than 14 days may be allowed to self-quarantine at their respective homes.
The regulations however say home quarantine will be granted prior to inspection and approval of the facilities.
Government has also said it will monitor all illegal or undesignated entry points to reduce the risk of importing the virus. Mr Nqgabutho Mabhena who is the chairman of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa said the new regulations will affect a lot of travellers. He said being quarantined at one’s cost will be a barrier for many travellers.
He also said the number of days stipulated for one to quarantine will also be a limiting factor in terms of travelling.
“It is a noble idea for travellers to get tested but the conditions involved will be a hindrance.
If a traveller is found positive they have to be quarantined at their own cost.
People didn’t work well this year which means they won’t have money to meet the costs,” he said.
“If a traveller tests negative, they have to self-quarantine. This essentially means that even if they travel, people won’t be able to spend quality time with their families.
By the time they are removed from quarantine the festive season will be over. Most people will find it pointless to travel. It will be a bleak season for diasporans.”
Ms Elfina Ncube who works in Botswana said it was her desire to visit her family during the festive season but it was going to be difficult.
“My children are in Zimbabwe and it was my desire to come and spend Christmas with them but I’m now having second thoughts.
If I test negative that means I will lose out on some days while under self-quarantine.
If I test positive, I won’t be able to fork out the money needed for me to be quarantined,” she said.
“I also fear that if I come home the pandemic might worsen and the border might close which will make it difficult for me to go back to work as I have to be back at work beginning January.
This whole situation pains me as I wish to spend the festive season with my children and my other relatives.”
Mrs Prudence Sibanda who works in South Africa said she and her family had planned to travel to Zimbabwe for the holidays but they have since cancelled the plan.
She said with the new border conditions it has become costly to take a Covid-19 test in South Africa for R800 and then cross the border and take another PCR test in Zimbabwe for US$60.
Mrs Sibanda said her niece and her fiancé who are in South Africa had planned to get married on December 24 in Zimbabwe but they had since cancelled the plan.
“If the Covid results come out negative or positive we still have to quarantine and it’s worthless to come home and then get quarantined for two weeks.
My niece and her fiancé who are also in South Africa were supposed to come home and get married on December 24 but they have since cancelled the wedding.
“Her fiancé is closing on December 19 and he was planning to fly home but that means he won’t make it to his wedding as he will be in quarantine,” she said.
“My husband hasn’t been home in two years because each time we try to travel a new variant is recorded and regulations are tightened. The situation has been really tough for us who are outside the country.” — @DubeMatutu