A TOTAL of 146 deportees from South Africa and Botswana escaped from quarantine and isolation facilities in Matabeleland South Province during the past week.
139 escaped soon after being placed under quarantine at NSSA Hotel in Beitbridge and Esikhoveni Training Centre while seven escaped at the District Development Fund (DDF) skills training centre after they had tested positive for Covid-19.
They had returned from Botswana and South Africa.
NSSA Hotel quarantine centre received 220 deportees from South Africa on Thursday last week and 115 escaped. Esikhoveni Training Centre received 56 deportees and 24 escaped. Ten were further referred to DDF training centre for isolation where seven escaped.
Matabeleland South provincial social welfare officer, Mr Criswell Nyakudya said they had engaged police in order to tighten security at quarantine centres.
“A total of 56 deportees arrived from Botswana through the Plumtree Border Post on 2 July and they were placed under quarantine at Esikhoveni Isolation Centre. On 3 July 19 males escaped in the morning while five others comprising four males and a female escaped on 10 July. On 11 July, 20 were transferred to Esigodini District Hospital isolation centre after testing positive for Covid-19.
“10 more were transferred to DDF centre for isolation because of limited space at Esigodini Hospital. Seven of them later escaped but they were intercepted in Esigodini while on their way to Bulawayo. Last week Thursday we received 220 at NSSA Hotel quarantine centre from South Africa.
The following morning during roll call it was realised that 24 males had absconded. On Saturday evening during roll call it was realised that 91 had absconded comprising 74 males and 17 females,” he said.
Mr Nyakudya said there is lack of security at quarantine centres.
“There is need to beef up security and we have engaged the police to ensure that more officers are deployed to the quarantine centres,” he said.
Mr Nyakudya said even if some of the deportees would have tested negative at the point of entry, they needed to go through the entire quarantine period and get tested again before being released into the community as they would have been in contact with positive deportees. He said some deportees initially test negative but go on to test positive during their quarantine period and they are moved to isolation centres.
Mr Nyakudya said the number of deportees being received from the neighbouring countries had recently increased.
Umzingwane District Development Coordinator (DDC), Mr Peter Mahlathini who is also the chairperson of the district taskforce committee on Covid-19 said there was need for more quarantine space and isolation space in Esigodini as the existing facilities.
“We need tents so that we can have more quarantine space and also food to feed the deportees as the numbers have increased of late. Esikhoveni Training Centre can only accommodate about 45 people while Esigodini District Hospital isolation centre can only accommodate 10 people because the hospital is small. We could use community halls but the challenge is that they need to be renovated first,” he said.