Zanzibar restricts entry to foreigners, returnees

THE Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar has restricted foreign nationals and citizens returning home from entering the isles as it records a third case of coronavirus.

The latest case involves a Tanzanian national who returned home recently from abroad.

"As from tomorrow (today), we will not allow visitors and returning citizens from entering Zanzibar, including those returning home from Kenya using illegal entry points. We are taking these actions to prevent COVID-19 from spreading to local population,” Minister for Health, Hamad Rashid Mohamed said yesterday.

He said the third patient is a woman, 57, who returned from abroad, "To-date, all cases are imported, and we ask foreigners and our fellow Tanzanians abroad not to come back home until the disease is contained. We are at high risk of our population contracting the disease because those who return interact with other people."

Tanzania has so far recoded a total of 14 cases of the novel virus. Minister Mohamed informed journalists that about 600 Zanzibaris from Kenya (Mombasa) returned home (Pemba) using Micheweni illegal entry points, and that unknown number of people has also returned using unofficial entry points.

Mohamed directed local government authorities with the help of security personnel to monitor all illegal entry points to Zanzibar, and asked people with relatives abroad to discourage them from returning home as part of preventive measures against the viral disease.

All the three people including the two who were diagnosed positive when they landed from Germany through France and Kenya, are undergoing treatment at Kidimni COVID-19 centre, but he emphasized on self-isolation for people who have recently returned from abroad.

The Minister said Tanzania has the possibility of preventing the spread of coronavirus if every adult takes precautions, including social distancing in market places, Mosques, funerals, and in sports, “Let us pray to God but also take health precautions seriously, including cleanliness and spending most of the time at home.”

He said many people, particularly those who returned home, are being monitored, as he asked religious leaders to seriously discourage gatherings in mosques, and conduct short prayers for now.

The press conference was also attended by officers from the World Health Organisation (WHO)- Zanzibar liaison office, Dr Jamala Taib- General Director, Ministry of Health, senior officers from the Ministry, and Dr Juma Mohamed- Director of Information (Maelezo), who warned journalists against reporting false information.

The Mufti (leader) Sheikh Omar Kaabi and other Muslim leaders last Friday night led people here through a live broadcast to conduct prayers, and called for solidarity to win the war against Coronavirus which has already claimed lives of thousands of people globally.

Last week Zanzibar government banned all tourist flights from entering the Isles as yet another precautionary measure over COVID-19.

The bold decision in preventing the spread of the deadly virus came despite the fact that tourism sector is the main contributor to the economy of the Isles.

Tourism is Zanzibar’s largest economic sector and essential for the island’s socioeconomic stability. It accounts for 27 per cent of the GDP, 80 per cent of foreign revenue and provides the highest private sector employment.

However, due to the global health crisis following the outbreak of the COVID- 19, Zanzibar’s Acting Health Minister, Mahmoud Thabit Kombo announced the ban of all tourist flights, except tourist charter flights, with condition that tourists onboard should be quarantined for 14 days on their own expense.

Author: SUNDAY NEWS Reporter in Zanzibar

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