By A Correspondent – The Government Tuesday resolved to put on hold requests from the tourism industry to open up travel further as Harare activated increased monitoring, surveillance and enforcement protocols targeting entry points following the outbreak of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Cabinet designated the Omicron variant as a virus of major concern in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) declaration.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said this during the post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday.
Omicron variant was detected in South Africa forcing some global nations to impose travel restrictions on Sadc countries, including Zimbabwe.
Minister Mutsvangwa said in view of the threat posed by Omicron, Government resolved to shelve proposals by the tourism sector to further open up the economy ahead of the festive season.
“Cabinet also resolved to put on hold requests from the tourism industry to further open up travel in order to allow for the monitoring of the situation of the new variant and its impact during the next two weeks,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
At the moment the country’s borders remain closed as part of the Covid-19 prevention measures.
She said the country’s decision to consider Omicron as a variant of concern is informed by the declaration WHO issued indicating that a new variant of concern, SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529, named Omicron, had been reported by South Africa.
“The Covid-19 National Committee has since designated Omicron a variant of concern in line with the WHO declaration.
The country will therefore, henceforth, increase surveillance and enforcement of Covid-19 protocols, especially at ports of entry,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
She said Cabinet has resolved that Zimbabwe immediately adopts and implements the recently announced WHO guidance in handling Omicron variant.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the measures include: “Enhancing surveillance and genomic sequencing efforts to better understand SARS-CoV-2 variants that might be circulating in the country; (b) reminding communities and individuals to take measures to reduce their risk to Covid-19 infection through the tried and tested protocols, such as wearing well-fitting masks, physical distancing, improving indoor ventilation, frequent washing and sanitising of hands and getting vaccinated.”
She said the country will heighten screening of returning residents and surveillance of illegal entry points.
“As the country goes into the festive season, and in order to reduce the risk of importing the new variant, in addition to strengthening Covid-19 surveillance and enforcement of protocols, vigilance of returning residents will be enhanced as well as at illegal or undesignated entry points and continued strengthening of the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the provinces will also be undertaken,” she said.