VICE- President Costantino Chiwenga has given thumbs up to the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo and the Victoria Falls International Airport to start receiving domestic and international travellers as airlines start flights tomorrow.
The VP, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care toured the facilities yesterday to get a feel on how the airports will receive travellers. In Bulawayo, he was accompanied by Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Cde Mangaliso Ndlovu, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Air Commodore Jasper Chimedza, the Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Cde Judith Ncube among other dignitaries. After the tour, VP Chiwenga said he was impressed with the progress done and said the country was ready to see the planes back in the sky.
“The facilities are good and I am impressed by what I have been briefed by port authorities here, they are now prepared for the re-opening of ports for domestic and international travellers. There are one or two things which we have advised them to put in place and are not really an issue,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said airports must ensure that they observe strict guidelines on Covid-19 to deal with both domestic and international travellers.
“I would like all airports to have the same set up so that we don’t have any problems with our domestic travellers and tourists who will be coming or leaving Zimbabwe. We must make sure that they are well looked after and all our health facilities are in place,” he said.
JM Nkomo International Airport manager Mr Passmore Dewa said the airport was expecting domestic flights from tomorrow while international flights will start on 1 October.
“I am impressed by the visit to assess our preparedness for the resumption of our scheduled operations from tomorrow for domestic flights and the 1st of October for international flights. We have taken on board comments by the VP and we will close certain gaps that are a bit glaring. We will be finalising some of the recommendations by the VP from Monday,” he said.
Mr Dewa said passengers must ensure they have their Covid-19 results and Lancet Laboratories will be on the ground tomorrow (Monday) when flights resume to assess those that will have been suspected to have Covid-19 symptoms by port health officials.
“Lancet Laboratories will immediately come in and test the affected passengers,” he added.
In Victoria Falls, VP Chiwenga also said he was satisfied with preparations at the airport. He, however, warned against laxity in following Covid-19 guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Government as the pandemic is not yet defeated.
“We are quite satisfied and impressed by the work which has been done by all departments which operate here. Looking at our situation
where we had controlled Covid-19, we found it necessary to open but that doesn’t mean that Covid-19 is over and a vaccine has been found. We are still with Covid-19 and we will still follow the script given by health officials. Those instructions remain in force and from time to time you will be guided,” said VP Chiwenga.
He said the re-opening of airports follows vigorous preparatory work which was preceded by a visit to the resort town by the inter-Ministerial team and launch of the National Tourism and Growth Strategy by President Mnangagwa at the Rainforest in Victoria Falls last month.
“The re-opening of the tourism industry does not signify that the war against Covid-19 has been won. We should continue to strictly adhere to Covid-19 regulations by WHO and our own Government directions. The purpose is to re-open the industry where employment and everything that goes on here is hospitality industry related. We have a lot of workers who need to be at work and also to reopen the economy.
“While we receive tourists, we must make sure they are in good health and detected here before they mingle with people. We don’t want people to go and complain in their countries that they came in good health and contracted the virus in Zimbabwe,” he said.
He said Government had to visit the country’s top three international ports of entry during a weekend because “there is no more time” as the airlines will be starting to fly this week. He said all staff at ports of entry should be equipped with personal protective equipment (PPEs).
As part of preparations for Covid-19, the Victoria Falls Airport port health desk is furnished with screening equipment and eight staffers. The airport also has an in-house detention centre to be used in the event of a Covid-19 case before the patient is taken to isolation centres in Victoria Falls. There is also a sanitisation booth at the international terminal which the VP said should, together with the port health desk, be also put on the domestic side.