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Plans to beef up Beitbridge border protocols after 30 test positive for Covid-19


Approximately 500 people a day are being turned away or arrested while trying to enter South Africa illegally from Zimbabwe

Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi during a visit to the Beitbridge border post to monitor Covid-19 compliance. Picture: Facebook / Limpopo Department of Health

THIRTY people tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday while trying to enter South Africa via the Beitbridge border post. Ten other were caught on Saturday, a day before Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi visited the post to monitor Covid-19 compliance.

Motsoaledi revealed that approximately 500 people were being turned away or arrested daily while trying to enter South Africa illegally from Zimbabwe.

Motsoaledi told eNCA that he had seen a video clip of Zimbabwean soldiers helping people cross the Limpopo River while he was planning operations with the SANDF.

“I saw it with my own eyes. They pay something like R100. We have set up firewalls to catch them and we succeeded,” he said.

Motsoaledi planned to deploy SANDF helicopters to patrol the Limpopo River. He said the SAPS would be conducting patrols on boats to stop immigrants from entering South Africa illegally.

Motsoaledi said operations would be intensified and manpower would be increased at the ports of entry under adjusted Covid-19 alert Level 3 lockdown until January 14.

The Department of Home Affairs has deployed 160 officials at six of the busiest land ports of entry to process returning travellers at Beitbridge Border Post with Zimbabwe, Lebombo Border Post with Mozambique, Oshoek Border Post with the Kingdom of Eswatini, Maseru Bridge with Lesotho, Ficksburg with Lesotho, and Kopfontein with Botswana. An additional 60 immigration law enforcement officers would be deployed to support the SANDF at identified high-risk areas along the borderline.

In December 2019, there were 368,895 travellers who crossed Beitbridge. In contrast, by December 27 last year, there were only 103,224 who crossed Beitbridge.

The Department of Health, via its Port Health Unit, would deploy additional officials to all ports of entry to ensure that only travellers with a valid PCR test are allowed into the country. Alternatively, those without a PCR test would be subjected to rapid antigen tests at the port of entry at their own cost.

South Africa will not allow any traveller into the country without a valid PCR test or the antigen test for Covid-19.

Only truck drivers are exempted from this test requirement.

More than 259 Port Health officials will be deployed to all ports of entry. In addition, 278 community service personnel on contract will be deployed.

The National Health Laboratory Services will enlist private laboratories to provide additional support for testing. South African Military Health Services has been requested to provide 73 additional military health personnel to help in the testing.

Speaking about the fake Covid-19 certificates being produced at Beitbridge, Ramathuba said Covid-19 was a reality even among our neighbours.

She told eNCA that the volume of people crossing the border had increased.

“We might have underestimated the nature of these fake results. On Saturday 400 people were tested coming through the border post. On average we process more than 8,000 people on a daily basis during the peak season. The test results come with a letterhead and signature. They look legit until you scrutinise them. We learn their new trick and continue to catch them out.

“Many people from Zimbabwe decided to beat the lockdown by entering South Africa because of work and food. Some rushed to our side. They are desperate to enter the country. Nobody that is Covid positive will enter the country,” she said.

Kosi Bay Border Post between KZN and Mozambique, which has been closed since the beginning of the lockdown in March, reopened yesterday.

SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General MPM Mgobozi said they were waiting for instructions surrounding the helicopter patrols over the Limpopo border.

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