As of 5 August, a total of 14,044 migrants (vs 10,808 on 7 July; and 6,892 on 9 June), including 7,724 men, 6,036 women and 284 children, have returned to Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries through nine of the main Points of Entry (PoEs), namely Beitbridge, Plumtree, Kazungula, Victoria Falls Land border, Victoria Falls airport, Chirundu, Forbes, Sango and Harare airport, since the onset of COVID- 19 and the imposed restrictive measures, due to the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, the lack of access to livelihoods and support from host governments.
The large majority of returnees arrived through the points of entry of Beitbridge border post (7,136), Plumtree (2,992), Harare International airport (2,573) and Forbes (646). The number of reported returnees continues to increase daily, with a projection of 20,000 new arrivals in the next coming months with inclusion of those from northern countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
As of 5 August, 1,314 returnees were quarantined in 44 centres operated by government, including 689 men, 527 women, 50 girls and 48 boys. The large majority of returnees were quarantined in Harare (340), Manicaland (96), Bulawayo (168), Masvingo (191), Mashonaland West (1402) and Matabeleland South (164). Harare is the province with more quantity of arrivals and has functioning 12 quarantine facilities.
With the number of COVID-19 cases South Africa increasing at an alarming rate, and corresponding increases in Bulawayo and surrounding districts, there is a need for increased cross-border engagement and collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with neighbouring countries Botswana and South Africa, to test returnees before return and avoid returning people infected by COVID-19 in holding facilities.
On arrival, returnees are screened, RDT tested and transferred to provincial quarantine facilities nearest to their places of destination, in order to avoid overcrowding of returnees and provide basic services.
Through the POE Pillar, Government and UN agencies continue to coordinate the cascade of the training of trainers (TOT) of 17-19 June by the MoHCC, to the 10 provincial teams representing all provincial quarantine centres, including all the relevant stakeholders managing the provincial quarantine facilities, to ensure a better coordination and enhance the provision of basic services in the centres, ensuring International Health Regulations (IHR) are respected and reinforcing IPC, to avoid further transmissions.
There continues to be an urgent need to improve conditions for migrant returnees in provincial quarantine facilities, to provide basic services including, food, water, medical services, MHPSS. In addition, there is a need for increased testing for personnel and quarantine residents and to reinforce security and surveillance to avoid the spread of the disease, since the majority of recently conﬁrmed cases were among returnees. Further, provision of livelihood support for the returnees’ post discharge from the quarantine facilities, is increasingly needed to support the reintegration into receiving communities, avoid rejection, stigmatization and social tension.
With the new COVID-19 context situation, its socio-economic impact of COVID-19, and signiﬁcant ﬁgures of returning migrants arriving in Zimbabwe, there is a need to increase health education and behavioural change in receiving and border communities to increase hygiene practices, avoid stigmatization and increased fear to reintegrate returning migrants, also increasing health education to improve community surveillance and detect border jumpers to be directed to the quarantine facilities.