Festive season plans for Zimbos living outside the country have literally been thrown in disarray because of new measures put in place to avert the spread of Omicron variant.
There are millions of Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa and Botswana who were no doubt looking forward to spending Christmas with their loved ones back home. Sadly, it seems only a few might make it back now as the country has plainly been closed.
On Tuesday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that with immediate effect, all returning residents and visitors will be required to undergo a US$60 (P600) PCR test at the ports of entry regardless of negative results from elsewhere. On top of that, they will have to be quarantined for 14 days at their own cost.
Zimbabwe is yet to record a case of the Omicron variant though the President said its discovery and detection in neighbouring countries ‘presents an added risk which compounds the burden we already face’.
A new curfew of 9pm to 6pm has also been introduced.
With the latest ‘closing’ of the country, those who intended to travel to Zimbabwe, especially during mid December, will likely cancel their plans as this means spending Christmas in quarantine.
“I won’t be coming home anymore,” sadly texted my brother-in-law, who is a teacher in Gaborone. His initial plan was to travel on December 15 after winding up his business.
He said he doesn’t mind parting with P600 for the PCR test but it was the quarantine which had put a damper to his homecoming plans.
“What’s the point of travelling home when I will spend Christmas at some holding facility? I will now just send groceries and spend the entire holiday alone here,” he said, adding that most didn’t see this latest measure coming.
This is actually the general feeling on social media streets, that the government made a rushed decision without thinking it through.
Most people have no problem with the tests but are against the mandatory quarantine even after testing negative. To add insult to injury, they have to pay for the two-week quarantine out of their own pockets!
“This decision was made from Shake Shake building (Zanu PF offices), no professional advice was sought here, this is how the country is run daily,” tweeted one Simba Chitowa, while Peter Mutasa wrote, “It appears UK was actually soft on us after all. Our govt is worse that the UK that barred a few countries from visiting a foreign country. Zimbabwe is banning its own citizens from coming back home. Let us rise #voicesagainstdictatorship.”
And, typical of most Zimbos, there is always a political motive behind every government decision as tweeted by one Manjenjenje, “…strategically laid out to prevent huge numbers to go to Zim for the festive season because those from SA were going to register to vote. The fewer people who gain entry the better for the ruling party.”