HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe is opening popular tourist destination Victoria Falls to visitors who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, in a move welcomed by the country’s ailing tourism industry.
Information Minister Monica Mutswangwa told reporters late Tuesday after a cabinet meeting that the government has resolved to lift the lid on Victoria Falls, the world’s highest waterfall and the country’s top tourist destination.
“[The] The cabinet accepted a request by the tourism industry to open the Victoria Falls and Kazungula border posts to fully vaccinated tourists. This is in keeping with the realization that over 60% of the population in Victoria Falls has been vaccinated. However, to mitigate the surge under the third wave of COVID-19, lockdown measures are being implemented across the country,” Mutswangwa said.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority spokesman Godfrey Coty says the pandemic has brought the tourism industry around the world to its knees. He says it is time for Zimbabwe to begin the long climb with the opening of Victoria Falls, which is within the limits and guidelines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And from a regional point of view, tourism traffic will increase and that will send a very strong message to our source markets. That is a surefire way to show, of the benefits being shown. [the] The government’s campaign to extend herd immunity to the entire city of Victoria Falls and later Victoria Falls. So, we are very excited to see this happen and it can only show that we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
About 1.5 million Zimbabweans out of a population of 14 million have received their first vaccination shot, and about 695,000 have received their second vaccination.
Clement Mukwasi, a spokesman for Shearwater, one of the tourism operators in Victoria Falls, sounded optimistic.
“It is the hope of the industry that towards the end of the pandemic – which we think we are in – some credit lines will be extended for the industry to recover. We commend the government for our call to open the borders of Zambia and Botswana as Victoria Falls reaches its herd immunity. We are hoping that apart from opening the borders, they are also going to set a policy on how people should be flown to the three countries,” he said.
Mukwasi said those who have been vaccinated should be allowed to move across the country without any problems, while those who have not been vaccinated should give results showing that they have tested negative for coronavirus. which causes COVID-19.
Zimbabwe currently has 101,711 confirmed coronavirus infections and 3,280 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global outbreak.
The government says that the vaccination program will intensify after more doses come from China in the coming days. The number of cases is increasing, as the delta variant becomes more widespread.