Harare – Zimbabwe is engaging South Africa to freeze mass deportations of its citizens domiciled there until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
South Africa has deported 630 Zimbabweans since the outbreak of the pandemic in March for various reasons, including violation of lockdown regulations.
Authorities in Zimbabwe say the deportations could be contributing to a spike in new coronavirus cases in the country, which by Friday had topped 2,000 from slightly over 100 in the space of four weeks.
Last Wednesday, Zimbabwe recorded 214 new COVID-19 cases and 124 of them were in citizens either deported or voluntarily repatriated from South Africa.
Zimbabwe Immigration Department spokesperson Mrs Canisia Magaya said: “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Zimbabwe has received a total of 7,845 repatriated citizens from Botswana and South Africa. Six hundred and thirty Zimbabweans were deported from South Africa for various offences.
“Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of Immigration held meetings on a monthly or ad hoc basis, with respective immigration authorities, as part of routine, mutual interactions. Obviously, these bilateral engagements and communications which have continued during the COVID-19 times, are done in line with the standard operating procedures.
“Due to the border closures and other restrictive measures which have been put in place to address COVID-19, we have however resorted to virtual interactions, particularly for the relaying of information to facilitate both repatriations and deportations.”
Some deportees have been escaping from quarantine centres, further spreading the virus.
Last week two brothers who had been deported from South Africa escaped slipped isolation at a hotel in Beitbridge soon after testing positive for COVID-19 and went on to infect eight relatives at their village home 90km east of the town.
Besides deportations, Zimbabwean authorities are battling to contain border jumpers and smugglers who are complicating virus control in the control.