By Leopold Munhende
TRAVEL restrictions on Chinese nationals into the country following outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) has stalled renovations at Hwange Thermal Power Station, Energy Minister Fortune Chasi has said.
Chasi told NewZimbabwe.com Tuesday Chinese nationals employed by contractors working on Hwange’s 6, 7 and 8 Units were still holed up in China meaning very little is being done to alleviate a power crisis that has troubled the country since last year.
“Renovations at Hwange are going on but they have been affected by the Coronavirus.
“A significant number of the contractors’ staff is still in China, but we have no doubt that will come to pass and we will cruise at lightning speed towards completion of the project,” said Chasi.
This comes a few weeks after Chinese Ambassador Guo Shaochun pleaded with the Asian economic giant’s businesspeople operating in Zimbabwe to allow their workers to stay in China until the raging virus is contained.
COVID-19, which broke out in China’s Wuhan City, has already claimed over 3 220 lives in 94 257 cases.
It has since spread to other countries in the world with Africa having recorded its first victim in Egypt only recently.
Most Chinese nationals are now stuck in their homeland after visiting family over their Lunar New Year holiday, a very important period within their culture, according to Ambassador Guo.
Chasi added water levels at Lake Kariba had risen to 11. 3 percent from a critical 6 percent last year after the January rains.
He however said load shedding being experienced among Zimbabweans will not be stopping anytime soon.
“So far we are happy that the inflows in Kariba have improved, that is different from saying there is going to be a resultant power increase but we are happy,” said Chasi.
“We are at about 11. 3 percent shared between us and Zambia but we are quite bullish about the developments in the power sector.
“We believe that the months of March and April will see some significant gains in terms of megawatts.”
Zimbabweans have been made to endure long hours of load shedding after poor rainfalls in the 2018 season due to an El Nino in the region lowered water levels at its largest hydroelectricity plant, Kariba.