Zimbabwe Opposition Wants Chinese Travelers Banned over Coronavirus

People walk by main terminals at the country's main international airport in Harare, Zimbabwe, renamed after Zimbabwean President Robert Gabriel Mugabe on November 9, 2017.
JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP via Getty Images

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party in Zimbabwe pushed for a total ban on Chinese travelers on Wednesday in hopes of keeping the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading to Africa.

“We want an update on challenges and preparedness on coronavirus. We understand that other countries such as Russia and Australia have closed their borders to Chinese nationals to avoid the spread of the virus,” MDC leader Prosper Mutseyami said to the parliamentary session that began this week.

“Why is Zimbabwe still allowing Chinese visitors in the country? This issue needs to be addressed as soon as yesterday,” he said, demanding a statement from the Zimbabwean health minister on the state of coronavirus prevention.

Zimbabwe reportedly has 506 people who recently traveled to China under observation for possible coronavirus infection. The health ministry has asked these individuals to self-quarantine for at least two weeks.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been no reported cases of the coronavirus in Africa as of yet despite roughly a million Chinese nationals living on the continent. 

WHO nevertheless considers Africa at “high risk” from the disease because visitors from China are likely to bring it eventually, and fighting epidemics is difficult in Africa. Epidemiologists have also considered the possibility of unreported infections on the continent and are watching for any sign of the disease spreading.

Kenya established its first two facilities to test for the coronavirus this week, taking some of the load off laboratories in South Africa and Senegal that have been handling all testing for the continent so far. 

The Kenyan labs are said to be capable of processing test results within 24 hours of receiving samples. To date, seven suspected coronavirus patients have been tested in Kenya, with none of them testing positive for the disease.

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