9 000 return home from 48 countries

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Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter

OVER 9 000 Zimbabweans have returned home from 48 countries following the outbreak of Covid-19.

The figure includes 241 who arrived at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport from the United States yesterday and were received by Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr John Mangwiro.

They were expected to immediately undergo testing for Covid-19 and are housed at a local hotel.

All of the returnees are employed by an American cruise company which will foot the cost of their stay.

Secretary for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Mr Simon Masanga appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare yesterday to give a brief on his ministry’s interventions in the ongoing fight against the pandemic.

He said South Africa and Botswana provided the majority of the returnees with 4 257 and 2 787, respectively.

Mr Masanga said returnees from South Africa and Botswana could have volunteered to come back or had been deported.

Countries that have provided returnees include Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, DRC, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Guinea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, Lesotho, Togo, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Namibia, Cameroon and Swaziland.

In Europe and the Middle East, countries where the returnees came from were the United Kingdom, Israel, Yemen, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Germany, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Scotland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Croatia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Sweden and Belgium.

In the Americas, the returnees have been from Argentina, Canada, Brazil, Falkland Islands and Panama.

In Asia, the locals that have returned home were from China, Hong Kong and The Philippines.

Mr Masanga said: “We have established more than 50 quarantine stations across the country. When this programme started, we were accommodating our returnees around Plumtree and Beitbridge, but as we continued to receive more and more people it meant our institutions that were looking after our people became inadequate and then we decided to open up other centres across the country.

“We are mostly using schools and colleges because we were not paying for accommodation and also providing food and clothing for some of the returnees.”

Mr Masanga said testing for Covid-19 on the returning citizens would improve following the arrival of testing kits on Friday last week that were already being distributed.

He said Government had so far spent at least $120 million on the welfare of the returnees that were housed at the quarantine centres.

Mr Masanga told the committee that Government’s cash transfer programme had so far benefited 197 220 individuals since its inception at the launch of the lockdown.

Under the programme, individuals are receiving $300 monthly and it targets to benefit one million individuals monthly.

Mr Masanga said at least 500 000 individuals should have been registered to receive the money in the next two weeks.

In terms of grain distribution, he said Government was providing 5 000 tonnes of maize to rural communities weekly.