Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter

CROSS Border traders in Zimbabwe have been given a new lease of life after being offered subsidised Covid-19 tests during the festive season that will enable them to travel outside the country and resume their businesses following the opening of ports of entry on 1 December 2020.

Cross border traders, who had been crippled by the pandemic for the past eight months, can now travel between countries on condition of producing a Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test that is valid for 72 hours as per Government regulation and costing an average of USD$60 at private laboratories.

However, Cross-Border Traders Association president Mr Killer Zivhu said members of the association can now access Covid-19 certificates for just R170 for a single test while nonmembers will have to fork out an initial R470 followed by R170 thereafter.

“Our members have not been operating and they cannot afford the high cost of Covid-19 testing that are being charged by laboratories at the same time the test is valid for 72 hours yet our people survive by constantly travelling across the borders. So, we want the traders to get back on their feet this festive season so that they maximize during this period,” he said.

He said in Bulawayo, traders can access the certificates at Silethemba Home along Luveve Road next to Mpopoma High School, Metasonic Shop Between 8th and 9th Avenue and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street and Shop 15 First Floor Hardon and Sly Building.

“In Mutare City, they can visit 107 Chutungo, Sakubva while Gweru residents can visit Midland Medical Chambers. Matabeleland North residents can visit Malasha Phamarcy in Hwange. Plumtree cross border traders are being advised to visit Plumtree Pharmacy while those in Harare are being directed to the Men’s Clinic International which is in Eastlea, 4TH Floor Shanda House Building and 21 Mimosa Court in the Avenues. Masvingo residents can visit Channel Surgery where they can get services,” he said.

Mr Zivhu said the association appreciates Government efforts to open up the borders as it is testimony that they also considered that there are people who survive through cross border trading and had the borders remained closed they would suffer even more.

“We have decided to compliment Government efforts by assisting traders as a majority of them are struggling to make ends meet and maybe this festive season is their last chance to make a comeback after nine months of inactivity. These traders have been contributing to the association since its formation in 1995 hence we have decided to assist them,” he added.

Added Mr Zivhu;

“We have partnered with local and foreign stakeholders to source test kits for the members, we are working with several doctors and pharmacists throughout the country who are going to be doing the tests as you know it is illegal to conduct tests outside a medical facility.

We are happy that many other people have come in to assist the cross-border traders as they know this is their only source of livelihood,” he said.

Mr Zivhu said the association was educating the traders on the importance of following Covid-19 guidelines even if they test negative for the virus so that they do not endanger themselves, families and other traders as they go about their business.

He however made a plea to the Government saying traders must not be tested on site at border posts.

“Our people must not be tested on site, a member can travel all the way from Kariba to Beitbridge border post without knowing their status, if positive it means there is a risk of infecting others as they travel to the border only to return home to self-isolate still spreading the virus.

So, we advise that people must leave their homes with a known result of being negative and they are not a risk to anyone as they travel, only practicing safety precautions as set out by the health ministry. @NyembeziMu