Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
South Africa’s Department of Health in the Limpopo province has urged cross-border travellers who used the Beit Bridge port of entry to access the neighbouring country and Zimbabwe in the last four days to consider self-quarantine.
This follows the detection of a cumulative 104 Covid-19 positive cases during screening and testing at Sadc’s busiest port of entry.
An average of 6 000 travellers have been using the border daily during the just-ended festive season.
Before the corona virus pandemic, 15 000 people were using the border and the number would rise to 30 000 daily in peak periods.
Those travellers entering South Africa are being screened at the foot of the New Limpopo Bridge, while suspected cases of those entering Zimbabwe are tested at the National Social Security (NSSA) hotel, which is being used as a quarantine, isolation and transit.
The hotel is used to process returnees who arrive by road from eSwatini, Lesotho and South Africa.
Currently, there are 55 returnees who came in from South Africa who tested positive for Covid-19 and are at the NSSA isolation centre.
Among them are 42 men and 13 women.
Most of those infected could have contracted the coronavirus while awaiting screening at the Foot and Mouth checkpoint in the neighbouring country.
Since Sunday, multitudes of people have been crammed at the no man’s land awaiting screening to gain entry into the neighbouring country where health officials appeared to have been overwhelmed.
As a result, issues of protocols of wearing masks and social distancing were thrown out through the window.
Due to limited Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing facilities in Musina and Beit Bridge some cross-border travellers are now being tested for rapid antigens at a mobile laboratory at the South African border.
In a media statement today, the Department of Health said the cases rose due to the crowding of travellers at the border for longer periods.
“The Limpopo Department of Health is calling upon all people coming to South Africa through the Beit Bridge Border Post to self-quarantine before interacting with others upon arrival at their destinations.
“This is after 104 people tested positive at the port of entry during the past four days. With thousands of people stuck at the port for days while waiting for their entry into the country to be processed, the department is worried that the events at the border are fast becoming a super spreader,” said the Department.
Limpopo Provincial Government’s Member of the Executive Council (MEC) responsible for Health matters, Dr Phophi Ramathuba said it was critical for travellers to adhere to the prescribed Covid-19 management protocols.
“Considering the incubation period of the virus, we wish to implore those who will be crossing from Beit Bridge to do the right thing and self-quarantine because they have been exposed to a potential super spreader,” she said.