Monica Mutsvangwa

GOVERNMENT yesterday further relaxed COVID-19 restrictions for travellers entering the country following a decrease in infections, saying the mandatory requirement for negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests is no longer necessary at the country’s ports of entry.

Returning residents and visitors are now required to present valid vaccination certificates showing that they are fully vaccinated.

During a post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday, Information and Publicity minister Monica Mutsvangwa said only unvaccinated travellers would have to provide a negative PCR certificate for them to gain entry.

Previously, all returning residents and visitors were required to present a negative PCR test before they were allowed to enter the country.

“Cabinet has resolved that returning residents and visitors are no longer required to present a negative PCR certificate on arrival at ports of entry,” Mutsvangwa said.

“Only a valid vaccination certificate showing that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with any one of the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved vaccines will suffice. This is in recognition of the declining COVID-19 new cases, most of which are now very mild or have no symptoms and increasing vaccination coverage. A negative PCR certificate will only be a requirement if the returning resident or visitor is not fully vaccinated. Government wishes to remind all citizens that COVID-19 is still with us and is, therefore, appealing to all Zimbabweans to continue adhering to laid down World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols at all times.”

Latest statistics from the Health ministry revealed that on Monday, the country recorded 122 new COVID-19 cases, while no fatalities were recorded.

Statistics also show that the seven-day rolling average fell from 190 cases on Sunday to 188 on Monday.

Zimbabwe is one of the several African countries that have relaxed COVID-19 measures at border posts.

Ghana recently ended mandatory wearing of face masks in public.

Kenya also recently lifted its COVID-19 restrictions and allowed large indoor gatherings.

Early this month, WHO said 22 African countries stopped doing contact tracing, while 21 no longer required quarantine for people exposed to the virus.

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said the move by government was commendable as it encouraged people to get vaccinated.

“It is an indirect way to encourage vaccination.  As it is, it will be increasingly difficult for unvaccinated travellers to pass through borders. Full vaccination has proven to be effective in fighting the virus so that is the only way to go if the country is to win the war against the respiratory disease.”

Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive Solwayo Ngwenya said: “The benefit of easing COVID-19 measures is that it will probably open up the economy. It will also see an increase in visitors, that is, an increase in tourist arrivals that will ultimately boost our forex earnings. However, it risks new deadlier variants being easily brought into the country without detection.”

Meanwhile, officials from the Health and Child Care ministry yesterday decried the low uptake of COVID-19 booster shots, with only 2,56% of the eligible population having received the third jab to date.

The booster shots were introduced late last year as part of measures to contain the virulent disease which has claimed over 5 000 lives in the country since its outbreak in Wuhan, China, in 2020. To date, only 31,1% of the country’s population has received the second dose.

Speaking at a meeting hosted by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and Christian Aid Zimbabwe in Harare yesterday, Privilege Torai, a health promotions officer in the Health ministry said vaccination campaigns should be increased in order to reach the targeted 10 million vaccinated population to achieve herd immunity.

“We want to reduce COVID-19 mortality, severe diseases and protect our healthcare system. So the target is to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by vaccinating 70% of the total population by the end of July 2022.

“By March 28, 2022 Zimbabwe had received 22 405 000 total doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The utilisation rate is at 38,6% and 107 new cases were reported and zero deaths as at Monday this week. But there is a lot of work that needs to be done. We haven’t reached the herd immunity yet,” Torai said.

She said the low figures were caused by vaccine hesitancy, myths, long distances to vaccination centres, transport-related challenges, and the mobile population not returning for a second dose.

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