Govt to avail more manpower and machines at border Beitbridge Border Post

Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau

Government is increasing border health officials’ capacity to screen and test travellers coming into the country from South Africa where there is a high Covid-19 infection rate.

The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr John Mangwiro said it was very critical for Government to put all necessary systems in place ahead of the gradual opening of land borders.

He made the remarks during the tour of Beitbridge Border Post on Saturday.

The Deputy Minister said more Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing machines were being deployed to the border which at its peak handles 15 000 people daily.

Less than 1 000 people, mainly those handling essential and special cargo and returning residents are using Beitbridge Border Post daily now.

“We toured Beitbridge border where we discovered that we need to introduce foot and wheel baths for vehicles and people as soon as they enter from South Africa. Most of the workers in offices were poorly protected and we have recommended improvements so that they don’t spread the virus. We need to make sure that we control whatever comes in before it leaves the border,” said Deputy Minister Mangwiro.

He said workers needed maximum protection and social distancing needed to be properly marked.

Deputy Minister Mangwiro said South Africa had opened its borders which called for more testing for travellers coming through the border.

He said presently the testing capacity at Beitbridge Border Post was very low and there is urgent need for improvement.

The border authorities, Deputy Minister Mangwiro said, had few PCR testing machines and some of them were not working.

“What we need now is to have more working machines and gadgets and to increase supplies in terms of testing consumables.

“What we are hearing here is that when the border is fully operational, they may clear more than 15 000 people daily. So, we need to really up our game this side by availing increased manpower and machines,” said the Deputy Minister.

He said the current scenario that has seen health officials taking samples for further testing to Gwanda and Bulawayo was unattainable considering the workload at the country and Sadc’s busiest inland port of entry.

Deputy Minister Mangwiro said it was important for Zimbabwe to reorganise itself to avoid clogging the border with vehicular and human traffic as a result of low testing capacity.

He said already they had started deploying automated thermometers and sanitisers to improve efficiency. The use of manual gadgets, he added was risky and delaying the smooth flow of traffic.

“As you can see trucks are congesting roads on both South African and Zimbabwean side of the border, which calls for us to improve on border management and efficiency issues through the provision of adequate tools,” he said.

Deputy Minister Mangwiro said Government will also upgrade testing and screening of returnees at the Beitbridge isolation and quarantine centre.

“We have also heard that there is rampant illegal migration along the borderline (Limpopo River). This calls for our security to up the game in terms of restricting those smuggling the disease across borders.

“I have seen the state of affairs at the District Isolation centre at the main hospital. With immediate effect we are going to revamp the centre and equip it with the necessary accessories including piped oxygen and making sure there is an uninterrupted supply of electricity,” said the Deputy Minister.

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