The Sunday Mail
Worldwide, tourism is one of the sectors hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. After nearly 18 months in the doldrums, tourism in the Zimbabwean resort city of Victoria Falls is enjoying a rebound with visitors returning in droves to see the majestic Falls, explore the mighty Zambezi and navigate the unspoiled safari.
And, this is thanks to the strategic decision made by the Zimbabwean Government to anchor its vaccination program on Chinese vaccines, Zimbabwe’s television network, ZTN, said a recent documentary.
Zimbabwe kick-started its vaccination program in February after the arrival of a batch of Sinopharm vaccines donated by China, a step marking the successful rollout of the country’s vaccination campaign.
Vice President and Health and Child Care Minister Dr Constantino Chiwenga, who was the first citizen in the country to be inoculated with the vaccine, praised China for its readiness to support Zimbabwe in the fight against Covid-19.
“Allow me to thank the People’s Republic of China for having stood with us in this time of need. We have walked this journey together through thick and thin and this time when the pandemic struck the entire globe, China was again on our door to help us,” Dr Chiwenga said.
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa received his first shot of China’s Sinovac vaccine in Victoria Falls in March, where he also launched the country’s second phase of the inoculation program.
In April, Victoria Falls became the first city in Southern Africa to achieve herd immunity with over 77 percent of its residents vaccinated, and also one of the world’s safest tourism destinations.
In July, Zimbabwean authorities announced the re-opening of the popular tourist destination to visitors that have been vaccinated against Covid-19, in a move welcomed by the industry.
Mr Clement Mukwasi, the public relations manager for Shearwater Adventures group in Victoria Falls, was ecstatic about the recovery in the sector.
“When we closed in March 2020, the livelihoods of our employees were seriously affected because we no longer had any money to pay salaries, neither were we able to open up to any tourists coming through,” he said.
“But now there is a positive mood out there. The inquiries that we are getting are quite massive and we can only attribute those inquiries to the attaining of herd immunity,” Mr Mukwasi said.
“We are hoping that in the next month we will be seeing quite a lot of people coming through,” he said.
Dr Fungai Mvura-Musinami, medical officer of Hwange district, said the Chinese vaccines were a game-changer for the city’s economy, which relies entirely on tourism.
“These vaccines have been instrumental in our vaccination program and making sure that our population had access to vaccination in the city,” Dr Mvura said.
She said with the availability of vaccines, city health authorities managed to put up port health facilities at the Victoria Falls International Airport, helping to strengthen the management of the disease and the ultimate recovery of the city’s tourism industry.
The effectiveness of these Chinese vaccines is manifesting itself in the city, where new cases have remained relatively low compared to other areas in the country.
Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun, said he was delighted to note that through vaccination, infection rates have lowered, and tourism in Victoria Falls has been recovering after massive vaccination.
In the ZTN documentary, one tourist said she chose to visit Victoria Falls among all the destinations in Zimbabwe because it is safer.
“What influenced my decision to come here is my safety. I felt Victoria Falls is one of the safest destinations in Zimbabwe because a huge percentage of people here have been vaccinated and I thought this would be the safest destination for me,” the tourist said.
Local residents said business was improving, as they felt safe to go out and do their business.
“I was among the first group of people to be vaccinated because I knew I would not be able to partake in the tourism business if I was not vaccinated. Now I am operating well and I hope business will continue to pick up as more tourists come in,” said a local curio seller in the city.
“Indeed, the Zimbabwe-China vaccination cooperation has helped to build a health shield for the people not only in Victoria Falls, but countrywide. This shows that vaccines not only save lives but also reopen economic livelihoods for the citizens,” ZTN said. – Xinhua