Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who doubles as Health Minister has announced that the country has recorded its first case of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
The new variant has already led some European countries and the US to impose travel restrictions on Zimbabwe and other Southern African states simply because it was discovered by South African doctors.
Chiwenga’s announcement follows a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases as the country topped 1,000 for the first time since August 4, corresponding with increased testing and surveillance at ports of entry.
The Ministry of Health said 80 of the 1,042 new infections were recorded at schools and colleges.
Addressing young farmers in Harare on Thursday, Chiwenga said Omicron had visited the country and urged people to get vaccinated.
“We are doing the genomic sequencing and we have already identified that we now have it (Omicron) in this country and, therefore, must remain vigilant,” Chiwenga said.
“We want everyone to be safe, so let us be vaccinated and then let us follow the protocols. We don’t want to end up putting extra measures but if we follow these measures, I think every one of us will be safe and we will conquer this enemy.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday declared that all visitors, even those presenting a negative Covid-19 test certificate, would be forced to undergo a PCR test, currently set at US$60 by the government, on arrival at the country’s ports of entry before going for a 10-day quarantine in designated places which, usually are expensive hotels.
His decision has already caused outcry from Zimbabweans home and abroad who argued that the measures were too ‘draconian’, meant to discourage visitors from coming in the country because some could not afford hotels and the number of days of isolation.
But government spokesman Nick Mangwana said if Zimbabweans abroad could manage to travel to Zimbabwe for the festive season, they could as well afford hotels.
“If you can afford to fly into the country at this critical point, you surely can afford to go into a hotel. What’s the purpose of returning for the festive season? You’re returning for Christmas ain’t you? So clearly you can afford,” Mangwana said.
“There is nothing that stops you from waiting until this avalanche is gone and come home. So I don’t think the argument will work because we’re not forcing people to come home but you’re choosing to come home at this particular time.” Nehanda Radio