COMMENT: Report people escaping from quarantine centres

Zimbabwe has witnessed a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in the past few days and the rise is attributed to citizens returning from either South African or Botswana. The country recorded 93 new cases this week bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 149.

Most of the cases are those of people returning from SA or Botswana who are at the quarantine centres in Beitbridge, Masvingo and Harare. What is worrying is that the country is witnessing a spike in new cases of Covid-19 when it is preparing to open universities and schools.

Universities are supposed to open this Monday and during the first phase only final year classes are expected to receive face-to-face learning while others use online learning. Schools, whose opening will also be staggered, are expected to open two or three weeks after universities.

The examination classes will be the first to resume classes under Phase One and these are Grade Seven, O-level and A-level classes. Phase Two which will follow after three weeks will be for classes writing next year. All classes will be split into two to allow social distancing.

Phase Three is when the rest of high school learners resume classes and at primary school level those resuming classes under the same phase will be Grades Three, Four and Five. Lower primary school classes which are Grades One and Two are expected to return to school towards the end of winter.

Now that the situation has just dramatically changed with Covid-19 cases more than doubling in few days, there are now fears that the situation could worsen when universities and schools open.

What is disturbing is the increasing number of returnees escaping from quarantine centres yet most of the new cases are those of returnees. According to police, about 120 people have so far escaped from quarantine centres thereby putting communities at risk of contracting Covid-19 virus.

Police said they were working closely with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to ensure all those who escaped and others jumping the borders to return home are brought to book. Most of those escaping from the quarantine centres could be fugitives from law who were hiding in neighbouring countries and were not aware that they would be screened on returning home.

The challenge to those mandated to take care of the returnees at the quarantine centres is to improve security. There is an urgent need to step-up security because we cannot afford to put communities’ lives at risk.

These reckless individuals escaping from quarantine centres seem not to appreciate the importance of being quarantined. The communities, including family members of these escapees, should report them to authorities because they are endangering their lives.

We have said it before that the only salvation for Zimbabwe like any other developing country, is on prevention hence the need to contain the spread of this devastating pandemic. Members of the public should not hesitate to report to police families harbouring returnees that have not gone through screening, testing and quarantining.

The threat of Covid-19 which is killing thousands globally, is real and every citizen has to be responsible if we are to contain its spread.

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