Mukudzei Chingwere

Herald Reporter

Inter-city public transport will now resume under strict health guidelines following the reopening of examination classes in schools and the resumption of domestic tourism, but operators of long-distance buses need to re-register and vehicles will be rechecked.

Cabinet yesterday also approved the reopening of the Central Registry for the issuance of birth certificates, national registration and passports, but new rules and times will be in place to avoid long queues and the risk of Covid-19 infection.

Inter-city travel was suspended when the national lockdown started on March 31 to contain the spread of Covid-19 infections. However, yesterday Cabinet approved proposals for the return of long-distance buses but under strict Covid-19 preventative guidelines informed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Despite the continued easing of restrictions, Cabinet reiterated that Zimbabwe was not out of the woods yet in its fight against the pandemic which has so far infected more than 7 000 people, killing more than 200.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Senator Monica Mutsvangwa announced the latest loosening of the regulations in Harare last night after the Cabinet meeting.

“Cabinet further approved the resumption of inter-city travel to facilitate the smooth movement of examination candidates, citizens and visitors.

“Transporters who wish to ferry passengers for inter-city travel should register with the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to ensure that they strictly comply with standard operating procedures for their sector which are compliant to the WHO guidelines and all Covid-19 regulations. In support of this service, the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) should also resume its services.”

Minister Mutsvangwa said following the resumption of domestic tourism, employees in the sector should comply with prescribed Covid-19 regulations.

In terms of testing in the tourism sector, only international travellers were required to provide a negative PCR Covid-19 certificate issued 48 hours before departure for Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has tested more than 200 000 people, with Minister Mutsvangwa clarifying the criteria used to test for Covid-19 as prescribed by WHO.

“In terms of testing the Ministry of Health and Child Care has, in line with WHO guidelines, adopted a symptom based management approach, which prioritises the testing of those people showing Covid-19 symptoms,” she said.

Cabinet also gave permission to the Central Registry to resume operations under WHO guidelines and among other things, clear the backlog in issuing birth certificates, national registration and passports.

“In order to facilitate access to critical documentation from the Central Registry during the Covid-19 induced lockdown, Cabinet has approved that the Central Registry should reopen and offer services, such as the issuance of birth and death certificates, national registrations as well as passports.

“Measures are being put in place to ensure that operations at Central Registry offices, which are usually characterised by overcrowding, are in line with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and WHO protocols in order to curtail the transmission of Covid-19.

“Members of the public will be informed on the timelines for accessing the critical services.”

Cabinet also authorised the partial reopening of the Department of Immigration’s client service centre for the purpose of processing short-term investor work and student permits, issuing visas at ports of entry and resume enforcement operations through the compliance section.

The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe will be opened as well to allow visitors access to National Monuments that include the National Heroes Acre and National History Museum.

Zimbabwe Passenger Transport Organisation secretary Mr Wilfred Chibage welcomed the return of the intercity travel and implored members to adhere to prescribed measures for the safety of passengers and themselves.

“We are happy we have been allowed to resume operations. This is good for us and passengers who faced a lot of challenges in travelling. They were being charged exorbitant fares by the illegal transporters,” he said.

He, however, urged caution on the part of the membership saying transporters were supposed to wait for full briefings before they resumed operations.

“Maybe in three days we will be told what to do for us to operate in a safe environment so we urge our members to wait and be informed on what they are supposed to do,” said Mr Chibage.

A bus operator, Mr Kudakwashe Mugari, welcomed the return of intercity travel saying: “As transport operators, we welcome the opening up of intercity travel by the Government. We will continue to combat new daily challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have a duty also as bus operators to take measures in line with WHO guidelines that will not endanger the lives of passengers,” said Mr Mugari.