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Covid-19 vaccine to jump-start tourism sector

23 Apr 2021 at 19:10hrs | Views
On January 30, 2020, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Globally, hundreds of thousands of people have been infected and thousands have lost their lives.

In Zimbabwe, the first case was recorded on the March 20, 2020. Since then, the number of cases has been rising steadily although the cases have dwindled in recent months due to various intervention introduced by Government to halt the spread of the disease.

These interventions included lockdowns, which entailed the closure of most businesses negatively affecting the economic activities. The tourism sector was not spared and emerged the hardest hit as travel between countries was reduced to the barest minimum.

This devastated livelihoods especially in resort areas such as City of Victoria Falls (CVF) whose mainstay is tourism. To date communities and businesses in and around the CFV are still bleeding from the negative impact of the pandemic.
At Government level, the decline in tourism and remittances led to reduced forex earnings, job losses and access to basic services. Tourism is a key sector for Zimbabwe's economy, generating an estimated US$1.4 billion (3.3 percent of GDP) in revenue in 2018. Currently, most of Zimbabwe's tourism source markets have issued travel restrictions or are still in lockdown, resulting in low tourism activity. Following the start of Zimbabwe's lockdown, hotels and tourist attractions shut down altogether leading to loss of income, which inevitably, translated into job losses for hundreds in the industry.

Nonetheless, there is hope for the tourism sector especially the CVF. Great news coming from the CFV is that the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine has been high.  The Government had a target to vaccinate about 25 000 people against COVID-19 in the resort city. Unsullied sources revealed that the target has already been exceeded in the vaccination first round; reaching the sort after "herd immunity" in the city.

Herd immunity, or community immunity, is when a large part of the population of an area is immune to a specific disease. If enough people are resistant to the cause of a disease, such as a virus or bacteria, it has nowhere to go.

Victoria Falls residents started receiving their second Covid-19 doses on April 20, 2021 following the rollout of the first mass vaccination last month. By April 21, more than 1 000 people had received the second dose in the city.
A total of 295 631 have received the first dose in the country wide, while 37 365 had received their second dose by April 21, 2021.

Government chose CVF for the launch of the mass vaccination targeting all eligible adult residents in the country's prime resort city to boost confidence of visitors to Zimbabwe's tourism capital.

Evidence on the ground show that this is well on course and will be achieved soon.

To what observers say is a direct response to the New Dispensation's well calculated and packaged Covid-19 response strategy, the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (USCDCP) has classified Zimbabwe among the few African countries with modest COVID-19 risk.

No doubt, this is an endorsement of the country's efforts in reducing the spread of the pandemic and will inspire confidence among tourists planning to visit Zimbabwe.

It also important to highlight that countries in the  Americas  are Zimbabwe's largest tourist source market contributing  101,156 tourists in 2019 down from 120,313 in 2018.

This endorsement by USCDCP is likely to push up tourist arrivals from the Americas and this is what the sector has been waiting for.

Tourism experts postulate that whatsoever benchmarks used  by USCDCP to rank the countries, it was before the country's too determined Covid-19 vaccination program, if another assessment is to be made going forward Zimbabwe will move from moderate to low risk.

USCDCP came up with a 4-level system to determine COVID-19 risks, with countries listed in level 1 being low risk destinations, while those in level 4 are very high-risk nations. Zimbabwe, Benin, Rwanda, Mauritania and Mauritius are on level 2 (moderate risk) while the majority of African countries are on level 4.

Government has locally mobilised adequate resources to bankroll the on-going mass vaccination programme in the country's border towns being prioritised, since residents are at high risk as they are largely dependent on economic activities related to cross-border trade and tourism.

Targeted towns include Victoria Falls, Plumtree and Beitbridge as part of efforts to attain 60 percent herd immunity for Zimbabwe.

The message all Zimbabweans should comprehend is that vaccination is the only sure way to return to normalcy.

Source - Tirivanhu Kateera
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