Virus hits South Africa border post

Beitbridge port officials detected more than 100 cases of Covid-19 in just four days this week, raising concern over the health implications of border delays.

13 January 2021 | Economics

I don't think I can afford to pay at each and every border. Wallace Muzondiwa, Truck Driver: Zimbwabwe

SOFIA CHRISTENSEN

Zimbabwean truck driver Wallace Muzondiwa queued four days in his vehicle to enter neighbouring South Africa after thousands of people rushed to the border to escape new Zimbabwean movement restrictions this week.

The surge overwhelmed immigration authorities at the Beitbridge border post, South Africa's second-busiest entry port, where angry crowds were stranded by the backlog.

"The situation is hectic," said Muzondiwa, desperate to get back on the road after officials finally approved his coronavirus test and additional pandemic-related paperwork.

Flustered travellers hurried past with their luggage, hopping into minivan taxis parked alongside sizzling barbecue stands selling chicken wings on the go.

Coronavirus has complicated cumbersome land border crossings in southern Africa, where trucks can sometimes wait days to get through sluggish customs.

"What causes the delays at the borders are the documents," explained South African driver Sinki Tshangise, 44, who has criss-crossed between Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe for almost a decade.

Negative Covid-19 certificates often expire before arrival, he added, forcing drivers to pay for more testing on the road.

Affordability

"I don't think I can afford to pay at each and every border," said Tshangise. "It's a real struggle."

At Beitbridge, truck drivers joined throngs of travellers queuing for rapid-diagnostic nasal swabs provided by the South African government.

Health workers said they had struggled to keep up with the influx from Zimbabwe at the start of its second lockdown earlier this week.

Lines of border-crossers spilled over onto the single bridge across the Limpopo River, which naturally divides the two countries.

Travellers and trucks crowded together along the narrow concrete strip with little leeway for social distancing.

Zimbabwe reintroduced movement restrictions to stem a surge in confirmed coronavirus cases, which have more than doubled to over 18 000 since the start of November.

"People who said they tested negative that side in Zimbabwe tested positive because they were on the bridge for more than four days," he told AFP.

Beitbridge port officials detected more than 100 cases of Covid-19 in just four days this week, raising concern over the health implications of border delays.

South Africa is already grappling with the continent's worst coronavirus outbreak and a spiralling resurge in cases attributed to a new virus strain. - Nampa/AFP

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