Editorial

Bolster border screening

ZAMBIA must tighten security in border areas and enhance novel coronavirus (Covid-19) screening, as the frontiers present easy entry points for people who may be infected with the virus.
Now that the first cohort has been managed, health and security officials must also focus on enhancing screening in borders areas, particularly the frontier with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Zambia shares the longest border line with the DRC, extending from Central, Luapula, Northern, North-Western and Copperbelt provinces, much of which is porous.
In Luapula Province, for instance, there are so many entry points in Mansa, Mwense, Nchelenge, Milenge and Chienge districts where citizens from the two countries across the border without any travel documents.
On the Copperbelt, there is high traffic between Zambia and DRC through Sakania and Minsundu in Ndola while Masaiti also has several porous points and footpaths shared with the vast neighbouring country.
Citizens of the two countries criss-cross in Chililabombwe and Kasumbalesa, Kitwe through Kamfinsa area and Mufulira at Mokambo.
DRC has sentimental and historical links with France and Belgium, the two European countries that are struggling to bring down the numbers of Covid-19 infections.
Quite frankly, there is a horde of DRC citizens that left the two European countries in the recent past to settle in Katanga province and Lubumbashi in particular.
The traffic between Lubumbashi and Zambia in Luapula, North-Western and Copperbelt provinces is extremely high and this presents a fertile medium of Covid-19 transmission.
Worse still, many Congolese flock into Zambia across the Luapula River and Lake Mweru undetected as the two water bodies are vast; there are no check points nor patrols.
It is also true that there are inter-marriages between Congolese and Zambians in Luapula and other areas, hence interactions are not only high but intense.
This means that peoples of the two countries live on either sides of the border without observing international rules in areas such as Pweto, Kashiba, and Kasenga and on Lake Mweru Islands such as Kilwa, Isokwe, Kilwa and Lukonzolwa.
This is a real threat!
To put issues in perspective, DRC has 154 Covid-19 confirmed cases with 13 deaths and even if the vast country has instituted restrictions, the likelihood of its people crossing into Zambia is very high.
What with instability in some parts of the country, which triggers mass exodus into Zambia!
Secondly, Congolese in Katanga province trek into Zambia in larger numbers to buy essential commodities, especially food stuffs.
It is an established fact that DRC nationals in Katanga buy mealie meal from Zambia while smuggling is also rife.
This means that interaction continues even in the night during smuggling through Mokambo near Mufulira and through the sprawling Kawama Township in Ndola.
Therefore, it will be prudent for the Zambian government to upscale border patrols to stop exit and entry of citizens from both countries.
Zambia must closely check all avenues through which this rapidly spreading virus can hit the citizens.
However, the setback is that up to now some citizens do not appreciate the seriousness of the Covid-19 and its impact on the social and economic strata of the country.
They are abrogating health rules and guidelines with impunity and would not mind any foreigners intruding the country.
However, health and security officials must still work with patriotic and enlightened Zambian citizens to prevent the spread of the virus.

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