As of 13 of September, a total of 18,459 migrants (15,776 on 19 of August, 10,808 on 7 July; and 6,892 on 9 June), have returned to Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries through ten main Points of Entry (PoEs), namely Beitbridge, Plumtree, Kazungula, Victoria Falls Land border, Victoria Falls airport, Chirundu, Forbes, Sango, Nyamapanda 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.
Most returnees arrived through the three points of entry of Beitbridge border post (8,969), Plumtree (3,641), and Harare International airport (4,359). The number of reported returnees continues steady approaching rapidly to a total of 20,000 arrivals in the next coming weeks with inclusion of those from northern countries such Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
As of 13 of September, 764 returnees (vs 989on 30 August) were still quarantined in centers operated by government, including 413 men, 271 women, 45 girls and 35 boys. Most returnees were quarantined in the four provinces of Harare (165), Matabeleland South (77), Manicaland (156) and Masvingo (97).
There is a signiﬁcant decrease of people in quarantine centres, since under new Government regulations the mandatory 7-day quarantine period for returning migrants is no longer applicable. Migrants testing positive remain in isolation centres while those testing negatives are being quarantined at home. In addition, returning migrants already in quarantine centres who were quarantined for a longer period than 14 days and do not present COVID-19 symptoms are been discharged.
As a result of cabinet resolution returning migrants that avail their results with a negative COVID-19 certificate conducted in the previous 24hs from a recognize entity, will be allowed to proceed home for self-isolation.
With schools reopening and examinations taking place, there is an increase of minors returning to the country .
Community isolation centres are in the process of been identiﬁed following the increase of local transmissions, with communities struggling to isolate positive cases due to lack of housing space and capacity requiring support from the Government.
With the number of COVID-19 local transmission increasing there is a need to reinforced surveillance, contact tracing and community hygiene practices and health promotion, speciﬁcally in border communities, that are more exposed to border jumpers or cross border traders using informal channels.
On 18 August, the Cabinet directed that migrants who are PCR negative on arrival or present a certificate of negative results from a recognize health entity will no longer be required to meet a 7 day mandatory quarantine period in Government facilities and allowed to self-quarantine at home with reviews conducted by the Rapid Response Teams in the locality.
IOM has set up an isolation facility within the Beitbridge border post, as well as Plumtree, Forbes Chirundu and Nyamapanda border posts, for real time separation of COVID-19 symptomatic travellers during entry screening within the POE. The facility will provide temporary holding and management before transfer to designated isolation facilities within the district.
There is a need for increased testing for front line workers at POEs and personnel within the quarantine isolation centres, as well as to reinforce security and surveillance to avoid the spread of the disease.
Provision of livelihood support for the returnees after discharge from the quarantine facilities is increasingly needed to support the reintegration into receiving communities, and to 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, and to improve community surveillance and detection of border jumpers and cross border traders using informal channels, to avoid the spread of the disease in border communities.