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On the Ground Corona Virus (covid-19) situation report from Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe

by Tony
(Victoria Falls)

12th May 2020 - In brief, it’s very difficult to see any evidence of Covid-19 present in Victoria Falls at this stage. The testing being done is limited but so are sick people at this point. The town is in lock-down and sanitisation and social distancing are enforced. Our borders are still closed.

The government announced a 14-day lock-down on the 30th March, which did not allow any individual to move outside of their home, unless it was for essential shopping, to go to the pharmacy or hospital.

The lock-down has been extended twice since then and is set to end on the 17th May, which will make a total of 6 weeks. There has been some ease of restrictions particularly with regards to industry and general shops opening up, however individuals are still banned from exercising on the streets, walking the dogs or any social gatherings.

Day-to-day there is not a single tourist in town and all the restaurants and hotels are closed completely. The streets are quieter with far fewer cars. Wearing of masks is mandatory and comes with heavy penalties if you are caught without wearing one. Sanitizers are used upon entry into any shop and social distancing is practised as much as possible. However social distancing does not really fit well with the lifestyle of the majority of the population who live in a high density suburb where keeping your distance is just about impossible.

Zimbabwe to date has 37 positive cases, 4 deaths and 12 recovered. A total of 12,498 tests have been done against a population of 16 million in total. The criteria for testing has not been random but targeted on suspected cases. For example those who were in contact with patients who have tested positive.

Victoria Falls town itself has only one confirmed positive case, which was very early on in the pandemic and that case has since recovered. No other cases have been reported to date.

The low number of confirmed cases in Zimbabwe can be attributed to low testing levels, but the fact of the matter is that testing or not we are not hearing or seeing of sick or dying people, which after all this time one would expect. The physical disease you would have imagined by now to have manifested itself amongst the mass population, with the health system becoming overloaded, but this does not appear to be the case.

So we wait with caution and confusion as to whether this still has to exponentially spiral out of control or have we done enough to keep it at bay, at least for this wave. The lag in time from the beginning of this pandemic till now has given our Covid-19 task-force the much needed time to get better prepared. We are hugely indebted to them for this

The question on everyone’s lips, including yours probably, is when will this end and when can travellers start to return.

I am sorry but I don’t have the answer to that. But what I can say is that Victoria Falls is ready and waiting.

Members of our small community have started meetings to brainstorm how we can claw our way out of this crisis, that is crippling so many. More about that to come. #WeAreVicFalls - watch out for this #. Input and ideas from anyone, via the comments below, will be most welcomed

With regards to international travellers it’s dependant on the directive that comes from the airlines as to how, when and at what cost flights will be. With that we will have a clearer picture on when travel can resume, (flights will only resume obviously once the borders have been opened)

Local and regional travel is likely to pick-up sooner than the international market. When the borders open is obviously important for regional travel. Some hotels, guest lodges and suppliers are working on extremely competitive package prices to attract this market, that in normal circumstances are marginalised by the prices.

It is not the case though that all operations will resume immediately as the cost of kick-starting a big engine is quite high, so the volume of incoming tourists will have to be analysed first to ensure the viability of an operation.

But there will be some hotels open, there will be the Victoria Falls to see and there will be some of the activities open. There will also be some travellers, especially the younger ones, who will throw caution to the wind and say “I’M GOING”. We look forward to that day from the very depths of our being!

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