By Alois Vinga
AS the coronavirus takes its toll across the globe, the Zimbabwe government has no plans to advance any form of assistance to Zimbabweans based abroad who fall sick or die from the pandemic.
This comes few days after Melissa Jacqueline, 19, a Zimbabwean student at St. Andrews University in the US, succumbed to the coronavirus this week.
However, Information Ministry Permanent Secretary Nick Mangwana told NewZimbabwe.com Thursday that the Zimbabwe government had no responsibility to repatriate any Zimbabwean who dies on foreign land.
“In terms of our country’s health laws, the government does not have any obligation to finance repatriation of Zimbabweans who die in foreign countries as this is normally determined by the deceased’s relatives,” he said.
Mangwana said due to the complications surrounding the contagious coronavirus pandemic, this left no room for government to offer any repatriation assistance, even when required, as, according to policies governing such deaths, a person who dies from the disease has to be buried within 24 hours.
Journalist Zororo Makamba, who became the first person to die from the coronavirus in Zimbabwe on Monday, was buried the next day before a handful people who included health workers.
“COVID-19 burials are not just being handled any how because they have to be carried out within the stipulated time-frames and under the guidance of professionally trained health workers who oversee the process right from the place of death to the place of burial in order to avoid infections in the best interest of the public,” Mangwana said.
The government spokesperson hinted that if a coronavirus victim was brought to Zimbabwe for burial, they would be buried immediately after their arrival.
Zimbabwe has millions of its nationals living, working and studying in foreign lands.
In neighbouring South Africa, a country which was put under lockdown Thursday night, estimates put the figures of Zimbabweans living there at two million.
By late Thursday afternoon, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that coronavirus infections had risen to 927 and expectations were that it would rise to 1 500.
The Zimbabwean government is not keeping any information relating to the death from Covid-19, of any locals based abroad.