Crime Reporter

FOUR more returnees escaped from Esikhovini Covid-19 quarantine centre in Esigodini, bringing the total to 209 of those who have escaped so far from compulsory quarantine for returning residents, with police now stepping up efforts to prevent escaping and arrest those who have fled.

So far, police have only managed to arrest 28 people who had escaped from the designated quarantine centres countrywide. On Monday, 10 returnees, two of them Covid-19 positive, escaped from quarantine centres countrywide.

The two Covid-19 positive returnees escaped from Pangani Training Centre in Matabeleland South, with seven escaping from Bulawayo Polytechnic and the 10th escaped from Mushagashe Training Centre in Masvingo. National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi yesterday said police were concerned about the increase in the numbers of escapees.

“Investigations are still ongoing to ascertain the manner in which these people are escaping from these centres,” he said. “We still believe that they are taking advantage of the porous security fences and walls at some of these institutions and other surroundings that don’t have lights.”

Asst-Comm Nyathi said some of the centres were upgrading security systems and some of the suspects were taking advantage to escape.

Meanwhile, 94 708 people have been arrested countrywide since March 30 for violating lockdown regulations, with almost all paying admission of guilt fines, although more serious offenders go to court.

Asst-Comm Nyathi said that on Wednesday alone, police arrested 1 151 people countrywide and most of them for unnecessary movements (547) and for not wearing masks (271).

He said a total of 377 people have also been arrested for border jumping and smuggling.  Police have impounded 1 333 kombis in the ongoing major blitz for operating in defiance of lockdown regulations. The kombis are operating outside Zupco management.

Owners of around 1 000 kombis have seen their vehicles integrated into the Zupco fleet, but others have illegally put their vehicles back onto the road.

Pirate kombis charge two to three times the approved Zupco kombi fares.

According to police, some of the drivers of pirate kombis were fined, while others are expected to appear in court. Asst-Comm Nyathi reiterated that police would not release the kombis that they impounded, even if the driver escaped with a fine.

“We are still concerned that these errant kombi operators are continuing to operate on the road and exposing people to Covid-19, as they are not following the law,” he said. “Most of them are even travelling at night, while others are using feeder roads, which are in bushy areas.”

Traffic police would remain deployed to arrest pirate taxi and kombi drivers picking up and carrying passengers.