By Idah Mhetu
IMMIGRATION officers based at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport Immigration face the constant danger of contracting the deadly coronavirus after their employer has failed to avail protective material to use while dealing with travellers coming into Zimbabwe.
Members of the parliamentary portfolio committee on health Wednesday conducted a visit at the airport where they quizzed the Head of the Immigration Department, Evans Siziba, on why the department’s officers did not have medical masks and gloves while screening travellers entering the country.
However, Siziba told the MPs the Department of Immigration had failed to secure medical masks or face shields due to acute shortages of foreign currency.
“We had the masks but we have run out of them. We need foreign currency to source them as we cannot source those masks internally,” he said.
“Due to procurement measures which we are expected to adhere to, we need to identify a supplier and it’s not easy to just identify a supplier without going through the processes. At times we are assisted by our Port Health Department with the masks.”
Siziba also emphasised on the issue of travellers bringing medical certificates notifying that the traveller had been tested for the coronavirus.
He said if the traveller did not produce the certificate and was not a Zimbabwean National, they were going to be deported.
“We have also put measures. It’s not that we are just relaxing as you might know there is a certificate that is supposed to be produced by a traveller before he comes into Zimbabwe and that certificate has to be notarised from country of destination before somebody boards the plane to Zimbabwe and we strictly enforcing that,” he added.
However, the committee’s chairperson Ruth Labode blasted the Department of Immigration, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Port Health Department and Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) for operating in a disjointed manner in screening travellers from the coronavirus.
She said this exposed travellers and Zimbabweans at large.
“Why don’t you borrow masks from the ZIMRA workers since they have the normal medical masks needed because this poses danger to the travellers and the Zimbabweans at large,” said Labode.
The Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport does not have its own port health facility to quarantine suspected travellers and it is currently using the Premier Service Medical Investments (PSMI) clinic which also does not have facilities to deal with possible cases of the virus.