HUMAN and vehicular traffic remains low at Beitbridge, the region’s busiest port of entry with South Africa, four days after the border was opened to the public in the aftermath of the global Covid-19 pandemic which shut down the world.
A survey of the border post by The NewsHawks yesterday showed that there were only trickles of people and cars, including commercial vehicles, crossing to and from Zimbabwe and South Africa as traffic struggles to pick up in what is usually the busiest port of entry in the region.
Beitbridge is widely regarded as the busiest border town in sub-Saharan Africa. Travellers said movement has now changed and as a result now people spend so much time going through the coronavirus-related processes since the re-opening of the border on Tuesday.
“Currently there is low human and vehicular traffic; people have adopted a cautious attitude to travelling and crossing the border. Others have failed to raise the US$60 for Covid-19 testing locally,” an immigration officer said.
“However, laboratories are now lowering the prices by 50% so that they remain in business. Tight screening of travellers is being done at all border entrance points.”
South Africa has a standby mobile testing laboratory to cater for those who would need further testing during screening.
Susan Moyo, an informal trader travelling between the two countries, said Zimbabwe and South Africa should synchronise the validity of the Covid-19 certificates to either 48 hours or 72 hours.
“All the other processes are ok, but the current set-up is a disadvantage for many cross-border traders,” Moyo told The NewsHawks.
“Zimbabwe requires certificates not more than 48 hours and South Africa needs certificates not more than three days.
“Our view as informal traders is that this certificate timeframe should be uniform in both countries to avoid confusion and inconveniences.”
Rufaro Gwenhure said the prices of Covid-19 tests in Zimbabwe are likely to affect most low income earners as they make travelling more expensive, over and above other processes and attendant complications. Besides the prices of Covid-19 tests, fears of the pandemic itself and cumbersome travel processes, people have no money to travel as economies, companies and informal sector activities, were grounded for the better part of the year. Covid-19 changed social, political and economic spheres, as well as people’s interests, activities and habits. Immigration officers said the movement and flow of people remained very low at the border, but indicated that traffic might pick up in the next few weeks towards the festive holidays.
Zimbabwe has 10 1289 confirmed coronavirus cases and 277 deaths. At least 8 643 victims recovered. The Zimbabwean government declared the Covid-19 crisis a “national disaster” on 27 March, a move allowing it to commandeer state resources towards fighting the pandemic, to use emergency regulations, and to deploy personnel for the same services.
Government began a nationwide lockdown on 30 March, which was slightly eased and extended indefinitely on May 16. Although the lockdown has ended, there are still strict Covid-19 rules and protocols applying.
Travellers who arrive in Zimbabwe with a negative Covid-19 test performed within 48 hours of arrival may proceed to their homes where they must quarantine for 14 days.
Arriving passengers without a Covid-19 test must either be tested upon arrival or quarantined in a government centre for 14 days. Diplomats are exempt from the testing requirement, but must still respect the 14-day home quarantine. Borders are now open.