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from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls
VICTORIA FALLS – VICTORIA Falls, the country’s prime tourism destination, is apparently the epicentre of the third wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeping through Zimbabwe.

It is believed the two international conferences that were recently held in the western city are the source of the escalating cases.

Victoria Falls hosted the eighth edition of the Africa Public Service Day and the 39th Ordinary Session of the Pan African Postal Union in the last week of June.

An unspecified number of foreign delegates tested positive for the virus during these international summits.

Then, Zimbabwe had 41 000 cumulative cases while new cases were in the region of 100 per day.

The cumulative number of cases, characterised by the highly contagious Delta variant, has spiked to 62 383 (including 2 029 deaths) by Thursday.

There were 2 264 new cases on Wednesday alone, up from 800 on Sunday.

Hwange District, where Victoria Falls is located, is enduring a surge.

Health officials said about 90 percent of new cases were people who were not vaccinated.

“To be precise, a majority of cases in Victoria Falls are people who were not vaccinated,” Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Director, Dr Munekai Padingani, said.

“We had two international conferences recently and some of the cases came from outside the country. Residents that were vaccinated are not really affected,” he added.

Victoria Falls has reached herd immunity following vaccination of about 21 000 people.

“The recent onset of the third wave has shown the importance of vaccination as the cases that have been witnessed in Victoria Falls are from those who came for conferences and events and were not vaccinated,” said Anald Musonza, the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe chairman for Matabeleland North.

“In other words, vaccination gives hope to the destination for a comeback, hence we encourage more people to get vaccinated so that we can save lives and jobs,” he added.

Farai Chimba, the Victoria Falls Hotel General Manager, said the tourism industry needed to reach 100 vaccination reach from the current 80 percent.

“We continue to encourage members and workers including their extended families to vaccinate so we can reach national herd immunity. This is critical for our industry because we are a high contact sector so all staff and guests should get vaccinated,” Chimba said.

Zimbabwe received an additional 2 million Sinovac doses from China on Thursday.

Amid widespread speculation and scepticism by ordinary citizens over 819 000 have received the first dose, with close to 580 000 getting the
second inoculation.

Zimbabwe plans to vaccinate at least 10 million eligible people out of a population of about 14 million, to reach herd immunity.

More than 4 million doses have been procured.

– CAJ News