FAILURE by Zimbabwe to conduct proper research on the Covid-19 variants in the country is harming the economy and limiting air travel options as airlines and nations are imposing travel restrictions to and from the country based on the virus’ prevalence in South Africa.
The ministry of Health said it will be able ascertain the different variants circulating in the country after genotyping has been done in South Africa.
This follows an announcement by RwandAir that it had suspended flights to Harare effective 8 January owing to global concerns on the variants in South Africa.
RwandAir this week said: “In view of the global concerns on Covid variants prevalent throughout South Africa, RwandAir announces the suspension of its flights to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lusaka and Harare effective 8 February 2021. Scheduled flights will resume as soon as there is more clarity on the situation”.
Just as it did to South Africa mid-January, Dubai-based airline Emirates said it would temporarily suspend all flights to and from Harare from 13 February to 28 February “due to operational reasons”.
Again, the United Kingdom imposed a travel ban for 11 southern Africa countries including Zimbabwe for the same reason. The UK had also removed Emirates as an option to fly from UK to Harare.
Zimbabwe has not been quick in deciding which vaccine as scientists are yet to ascertain which vaccine would be safer and more effective for the Covid-19 variants.
Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) spokesperson Donald Mujiri told The NewsHawks that samples were being sent to South Africa for sequencing and it would take a month to ascertain which strains are circulating in Zimbabwe.
“The MOHCC in Collaboration with World Health Organisation (WHO) is in the process of preparing to send samples to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa for genetic sequencing so as to ascertain the current circulating strains. With those results we will be able to choose which vaccine is suitable for our country. With those results, we will be able to choose which vaccine is suitable for our country,” Mujiri said.
“Genotyping is soon going to be done for us to know the current circulating strain. After we have results of the current strain, a scientific committee will then need to decide from the available… this we will know in a month’s time.
“The Ministry is doing everything possible to ensure that citizens are safe from possible side effects of some Covid-19 vaccines, currently on the shelf. Specimen shall be analysed so that we see which strain is circulating in the country. Currently Zimbabwe is working with various manufactures to have their vaccines registered here, so we are gathering the data.”
The United Kingdom will from 15 February require travellers from so-called “red zone” countries to go under mandatory quarantine.
“You must self-isolate when you enter the UK from any foreign country except Ireland, unless you have a valid exemption. From 15 February, when entering the UK from a country with a travel ban to the UK, you must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. The travel ban on southern African countries is a measure to prevent the spread of a new Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa.”