By Alois Vinga
GROUP of returning Zimbabweans currently quarantined at Belvedere Teachers’ College in Harare Saturday staged a demonstration against a government requirement for them to each pay a private medical facility US$65 for compulsory Covid-19 testing, an exercise which had all along been conducted for free by authorities.
Operations at the quarantine facility were briefly stopped as demonstrators demanded answers on why they were required to pay such a huge amount when the screening was supposed to be free of charge.
The demonstration, staged between 10 am and 4 pm, only ended after the intervention of officials from relevant government ministries.
Most of the returning residents housed at the isolation facility worked in the lucrative cruise ship industry, which has since been grounded due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The demand to pay US$65 was made by officials manning the centre and this did not augur well with the returnees,” a source said.
The quarantined citizens also accused officials of extortion through charging exorbitant fees in contradiction of government policy that Covid-19 testing was free of charge at the centres.
Contacted for comment, Information Ministry secretary Nick Mangwana confirmed the disturbances took place but said some returnees had opted to pay the US$65 for testing at private medical facilities after the isolation centre faced shortages of Covid-19 test kits.
“The long and short of it is that the alleged mishap at Belvedere (Teachers’ College) took place when the returnees who were in a hurry and could not wait for the testing kits were offered an opportunity to access the service elsewhere,” he said.
“But this happened for a short while and as I am speaking everything has been sorted out and testing is being undertaken at no cost in line with the government’s position.”