Zimbabwe has imposed a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all travelers entering the southern African country, including returning residents, as part of new measures aimed at preventing the spread of the new Covid-19 omicron variant.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the new measures including revised curfew hours and business operating hours in a televised address on Tuesday night.
“All returning residents and visitors have to undergo PCR testing, and will quarantine at own cost, for days recommended by the World Health Organisation, even if they present negative PCR test results from elsewhere,” President Mnangagwa said.
He said the discovery of the variant presented an “added risk, which compounds the burden we already face.”
Zimbabwe is yet to record a case of the omicron variant that was first detected by its neighbours Botswana and South Africa last month.
Western countries and some in Africa have reacted to the detection of the new variant by banning travellers from southern African region, while major airlines have halted flights to the region.
Before the new measures announced by President Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe only required those that showed symptoms of Covid-19 on arrival at ports of entry to undergo PCR tests for $60.
He said the progress made by the country in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic was now at risk due to complacency.
“In all likelihood, this worrisome complacency is likely to get worse as the festive season approaches,” President Mnangagwa said.
“Our nation thus faces the grim risk of a fourth wave, which must be avoided at all costs. We face a new, added risk, which compounds the burden we already face and shoulder from known variants we have been grappling with since the outbreak of the pandemic,” he added.
He said access to night clubs and bars will be restricted to vaccinated patrons and imposed a 9 PM to 6 AM curfew.
As of Tuesday, Zimbabwe had recorded 1,593,325 Covid-19 cases with 4,707 deaths.
Zimbabwe usually records a surge in the number of visitors in December when immigrants return from their bases in neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Botswana.
Unrestricted travel during the 2020 festive season was linked to the devasting second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak early this year that claimed the lives of hundreds of people, including Cabinet ministers.