From George Maponga in Masvingo
THE Government is mobilising resources to procure drones, helicopters including all-terrain vehicles to improve the efficacy of patrols along the country’s borders with neighbouring countries.
The development comes as Covid-19 cases continue to surge in Zimbabwe with most of the local transmissions blamed on returnees from other countries who are skipping the border to evade mandatory quarantining.
In the wake of the outbreak of the virus and as part of precautionary measures all returning residents into the country are subject to mandatory quarantining at designated centres to allow them to be screened and tested for the novel virus before going home.
However, a spike in the number of returnees going straight to their homes after jumping the border especially from South Africa and Mozambique taking advantage of the expansive and porous border between Zimbabwe and the two counties is giving authorities headaches.
There are fears that scores of returnees might have used illegal crossing points from Zimbabwe’s two neighbours and joined their families without undergoing mandatory quarantining thereby endangering local communities and frustrating the fight to curb the spread of the novel virus.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services permanent Secretary Mr Nick Mangwana said in an interview over the weekend that the Government was working flat out to increase its capacity to police the long and porous border with neighbouring countries.
Drones and helicopters, he said, would make it easier to effectively police the long border.
“We are in the process of putting together resources to acquire drones and helicopters that will be used to patrol the country’s long and porous border with other countries especially South Africa and Mozambique,” he said.
“The drones and helicopters will be very handy in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 through curbing a surge in the number of returnees skipping the border to avoid mandatory quarantining and these items(drones and helicopters), will be more useful in the medium to long term and that is if this pandemic prolongs.”
Mr Mangwana noted that the Government was concerned about the high number or returnees taking advantage of the porous border to evade mandatory quarantining as per the law.
“We will also purchase all terrain vehicles and upgrade roads along our border to improve accessibility by those patrolling. The state of our roads along the border in some areas is not up to the same standard with those on the other side especially South Africa and we would want to improve to match that so we are pooling together resources for that.”
He also touched on the media in disseminating information about the Covid-19 pandemic, praising the ground that has been covered so far.
According to Mr Mangwana Covid-19 was not a static target hence the need for dynamism in packaging messages.
“Initially our thrust before the first lockdown on March 30 was to lock out the virus from our country, which entails that messaging focused on prevention and precautionary measures to keep the disease our of our country,” he said.
“But now the situation has changed and we now have over 100 deaths and more than a 1 000 cases of Covid-19, some of them through local transmission. It means we now need to change our messaging to tackle issues of stigma for those who are positive and other things like that so the message is not static but dynamic.”
In Masvingo Mr Mangwana showered praise on the Covid-19 risk communication and community engagement team, which comprises Government departments, both the private and public media, including freelance journalists for doing a sterling job. He singled out private radio stations such as Hevoi FM and Great Zimbabwe University Campus Radio for joining the anti-Covid-19 fray through airing messages about the novel virus on their platforms.
He said the Government, would continue to support Covid-19 risk communication and community engagement teams as they played a key role in the fight against the spread of the novel virus.