Zimbabwe is opening popular tourism destination Victoria Falls to visitors who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, in a move welcomed by the country’s suffering tourism industry.
Late Tuesday after a Cabinet meeting, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told reporters that the government had resolved to lift a lid on Victoria Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world and the country’s top tourism destination.
“[The] Cabinet acceded to a request by the tourism industry to open the Victoria Falls and Kazungula Border posts to tourists who are fully vaccinated. This is in view of the realization that over 60% of the population in Victoria Falls has been vaccinated. The lockdown measures, however, are being enforced throughout the country in order to curtail a surge under the third wave of COVID-19,” Mutsvangwa said.
Godfrey Koti, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, says the pandemic had brought the tourism industry worldwide to its knees. He says it is time for Zimbabwe to begin the long climb back with the opening up of Victoria Falls, within the confines and guidelines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"And from a regional perspective, the tourism traffic will grow and this will send a very strong message to our source markets. This is a definite way of showing, of a benefit being shown from [the] government’s drive of vaccinating the entire city of Victoria Falls and subsequently Victoria Falls reaching herd immunity. So, we are very excited to see this happening and it can only show that we are definitely moving in the right direction," Koti said.
About 1.5 million Zimbabweans out of a population of 14 million have received their first vaccination shot, and nearly 695,000 have received their second inoculation.
Clement Mukwasi, a spokesman for Shearwater, one of the tourism operators in Victoria Falls, sounded an optimistic tone.
“It is the industry’s hope that towards the end of the pandemic – which we think we are in – there shall be some credit lines extended to the industry for the industry to recover. We applaud the government for taking our call to open the borders of Zambia and Botswana because Victoria Falls has reached its herd immunity. We are hoping that in addition to opening the borders, they are also going to set up a policy on how people should flow across all three countries,” he said.
Mukwasi said those who are vaccinated should be allowed to move across the country without any problem, while those who are not vaccinated should produce results showing they have tested negative for the coronavirus, which causes the 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 the vaccination program will intensify after the arrival of more doses from China in the coming days. The number of cases has been rising, as the delta variant becomes more widespread.