Before the pandemic, more than 350,000 people per year visited the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls but were reduced to almost none due to Covid-19 and travel restrictions. Hotel occupancy rates fell into the single digits during 2020 and the first half of 2021, and some hotels were forced to close, according to the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe.
After nearly a year and a half, Kazungula and Victoria Falls, the border towns that access Zimbabwe’s popular tourist destination, Victoria Falls, is once again open to vaccinated visitors after 60% of Victoria Falls was successfully vaccinated.
“Cabinet acceded to a request by the tourism industry to open the Victoria Falls and Kazungula Border Posts to tourists who are fully vaccinated. This is in view of the realization that over 60% of the population in Victoria Falls has been vaccinated,” said Monica Mutsvangwa, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services in a statement.
Minister Mutsvangwa had previously told reporters the Zimbabwe government had recently approved the reopening of the Kazungula and Victoria Falls borders for tourists following the success of the city’s vaccination rollout, a move the country hopes will reignite tourism at the attraction that has been closed since March 2020.
“Vaccination in border town hotspots and people’s markets is ongoing, with the highest coverages of the first dose being recorded in Victoria Falls City, Kariba and Chiredzi,” said Mutsvangwa.
Zimbabwe previously opened its borders to international flights on Oct. 1, 2020, as well as to neighbouring countries Zambia and Zambia and Botswana.
Nearly 7% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
According to the U.S. Embassy, Zimbabwe has 114,489 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,754 deaths as of Aug. 5. Quarantine is required for travellers arriving in Zimbabwe from countries with the alpha and delta variants, as well as passengers who transited such countries. Those travellers will also be subject to four additional COVID-19 tests.
“The opening of the Victoria Falls and Kazungula Border Posts following the success of mass vaccinations are likely to go a long way in encouraging other border towns to increase the number of vaccinated people so that their respective towns would be opened for trade,” the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care said in a statement.
“When President Emmerson Mnangagwa received his first jab in Victoria Falls City in March this year, he urged residents to get vaccinated so that the border could be opened after attaining herd immunity and they complied, hence this opening of borders.” – Gallivant Africa