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Raging Indian variant forces Zim govt somersault

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ZIMBABWE has taken measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 variant first detected in India, introducing mandatory 10-day quarantine for travellers, amid revelations that the strain is 50% more transmittable than other variants of concern.  

BRIDGET MANANAVIRE
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and scientists, the B.1.617 variant spreads swiftly. 
A chief scientist at the WHO said if one member of the family contracts it, the whole family is likely to catch it too.

“The pattern now is that one person in the family gets it, the whole family seems to get it. This is unlike the first wave. And so, I think what we’re seeing is more transmissible,” Soumya Swaminathan said in a report.

The WHO early this month listed the Indian variant as the fourth strain to be designated as being of global concern and requiring heightened tracking and analysis. The others are those first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

The organisation’s technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said the WHO is classifying it as a variant of concern at global level as there is “some available information to suggest increased transmissibility.”

The Indian variant has now been detected in Zimbabwe after a Kwekwe family contracted it after a niece returned from India. Research done in the UK showed that the variant spreads more easily than the one detected in Britain.

Scientific advisers, who try to predict the course of the pandemic using mathematical models, said they were “confident that B.1.617.2 is more transmissible than B.1.1.7 (British variant), saying it was possible that this new variant of concern could be “50% more transmissible”.

Vice-President and Health  minister Constantino Chiwenga this week announced mandatory quarantine requirements for all travellers coming from India after genomic sequencing tests results revealed that the Indian variant was detected at the focalised outbreak in Kwekwe.

Initially, government was hesitant to introduce measures specifically targeted at travellers from India, with the chief coordinator of the national Covid-19 taskforce, Agnes Mahomva, earlier in the week telling The NewsHawks the government did not want to be discriminatory.

Chiwenga said people travelling from or transiting through India will be subject to mandatory quarantine at designated quarantine centres and at their own cost.

“These travellers will be subjected to a Covid-19 test on arrival despite the status of their travelling certificate,” he said.  

“Travellers coming into the country from other countries should present with a Covid-19 PCR test done not more than 48 hours from the time of departure, failure of which this will be done on arrival at one`s expense. Travellers will be quarantined for 10 days from date of arrival.”

Mahomva had previously told The NewsHawks that travellers would be treated equally as it did not matter which variant they were likely to have.

“It does not matter which variant it is; we do not want to breach international human rights protocols. There is no need to stigmatise anyone,” she said. 

“We have put additional measures for travellers.  Apart from the negative result, people monitoring our ports of entry can now make a discretion to re-test travellers if need be.  We are strengthening our response. As you are also aware, yesterday (Monday) we received 100 000 more doses of the vaccine. Vaccination is a critical component in the control of the virus and also, according to cabinet minutes of 9 February.”  

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