ZIMBABWE is planning to extend its Covid-19 vaccination programme to citizens living in border towns as the country moves towards achieving 60% herd immunity.
The revelations were made by the Tourism, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu, who said the strategy is meant to protect citizens while boosting the tourism sector that has been fragile since March last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last week, the government launched a vaccination scheme for residents of the resort city of Victoria Falls as part of efforts to fully re-open the tourist destination in a safe and secure manner. The turnout, according to Ndlovu, has surpassed expectations.
“We are excited because the people of Victoria Falls have really surpassed our expectations because, as of Monday, more than 17 000 people had been vaccinated in a target population of just around 25 000,” Ndlovu said.
“We did our survey that for a population of around 35 000.”
“We thought that 25 000 was a safe target, so hitting more than 75% in a space of a week is an exciting statistic.
“I had a brief meeting with the Vice-President who is also the minister of Health and Child Care (Constantino Chiwenga) on Monday and we discussed the vaccines coming through this week, and he said that they are going further to be targeting big towns where there are borders such as Beitbrige, Plumtree and most of these major borders and, seeing what has happened in Victoria Falls, we are quite happy again as the tourism sector,” Ndlovu said.
Nyamapanda border post in Mashonaland East, which is between Mozambique and Zimbabwe, will also be among the targeted borders as a high number of immigrants fleeing violent conflict are entering this country.
According to a recent report from Southern Africa Human Rights Watch, there has been heavy fighting since 25 March, when a group known locally as both Al-Shabab and Al-Sunna wa Jama’a, linked to the Islamic State (ISIS), raided the gas-rich town of Palma, in northern Cabo Delgado province, killing and wounding an unknown number of civilians and causing mass flight.
The watchdog report further noted mobile phone signals have been disrupted, making it harder to obtain information about the situation, the casualties, and the whereabouts of many residents.
“Down in the Mozambique border side, we are seeing a high number of people fleeing into the country running away from the conflicts that are happening there, so apart from that (tourism), we want to see that our people are protected,” Ndlovu added.
As of 30 March, the Health ministry reported that 72 944 people had received their first vaccine dose. Only 12 922 have had their second dose which mainly covered the frontline workers, journalists, port staff and immigration officials who were targeted under phase one while the second phase is targeting teachers and workers in the tourism and tobacco industries, among others.
Zimbabwe has received vaccines from China, Russia and India through donations and purchasing.