With most Zimbabweans stranded in foreign countries at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic now home, the pressure on the formal quarantine centres for returning residents has eased freeing resources.
When the Covid-19 lockdown began in March, there was an influx of returning citizens and residents, which saw schools, training centres and colleges being used as emergency quarantine centres.
At one point, these facilities were overwhelmed.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Mr Simon Masanga said the development was likely to free resources that were being devoted to quarantine centres.
“The number of returnees has gone down. At the moment, we have 1 423 returnees in quarantine broken down to 626 men, 670 women, 78 boys and 49 girls,” he said.
At the peak of the returning flow, Zimbabwe had 3 491 returnees in quarantine centres.
Mr Masanga said there had been notably reduced numbers from Botswana and South Africa where most returnees came from.
Zimbabwe’s quarantine approach has been a dual effort between the public and private sectors.
This comes as there have been questions in some quarters over the relevance of quarantine centres when locally transmitted cases have eclipsed imported cases.
Although this comes as a relief to authorities, observers say there is still need for vigilance as the influx may have simply changed form.
In a recent situation report, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there were still cases of stigma in society.
“There is need to increase health education and behavioural change in receiving and border communities to increase hygiene practices, avoid stigmatisation and fear to reintegrate returning migrants, also increasing health education to improve community surveillance and detect border jumpers to be directed to the quarantine facilities,” said OCHA.
As of last week, 14 044 citizens and legal residents had returned home with the most prominent ports of entry being Beitbridge border post with 7,136, Plumtree 2,992, Harare International airport 2 573 and Forbes 646.