Thousands of Zimbabweans returning home for the festive season will spend Christmas Day at the Beitbridge Border with South Africa where they are undergoing thorough Covid-19 screening but two have already died due to suspected fatigue while on the queues.
Police national spokesperson Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the deaths but could not give details as the deaths occurred on the South African side of the border.
About 3 million Zimbabweans are reportedly living and working outside the country with the majority of them in South Africa.
Usually many return home during the festive season when the border is usually characterized by long winding queues with people spending a day or two in the queue.
However, the situation is worse this year as the returning citizens have to go through Covid-19 screening, a process that has reportedly caused congestion and long queues that are stretching for 15km into South Africa’s border town of Musina for both vehicles and people.
Zimbabwe has recorded 12 656 cases of coronavirus and 330 deaths as at December 23. The first case was reported in March from a citizen who had returned from Britain and until August cases were largely imported as the majority of new cases were recorded on returning citizens.
Since September cases have been largely local.
The country recently reopened its borders for citizens to cross to other countries but should have a Covid-19 certificate which is valid for 48 hours before travelling and testing for one to get the certificate costs US$60.
Screening is strict for citizens returning into the country thereby causing delays in clearing queues.
Returning citizens have complained about delays while authorities at the border have said queues are likely to start clearing after Christmas Day.
Some have been enduring rain and scorching heat for one week.
Other busy ports are Plumtree on the border with Botswana and Chirundu in Zambia although queues and shorter there compared to Beitbridge.
“It’s hectic at the border and we are tired. We have been here since five days ago and people are collapsing from fatigue. It looks like we will be here for days as the demand for Covid-19 screening is causing delays,” said one of the citizens stuck in Beitbridge.
Some have already lost goods to rain and perishability.
The border closes at 10pm daily and over the years the borders have been opening 24 hours to clear congestion.
Some are now walking the 15 km from Musina to Beitbridge border post on foot to try and beat the queues.
Beitbridge is the busiest port into Southern Africa. SUBSCRIBE TO OUR FREE NEWSLETTER