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Nearly 2 dozen escape from virus quarantine in Zimbabwe

May 20, 2020 GMT
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South African National Defense Forces check the temperature near the Pan Africa taxi rank in Johannesburg's Alexandra township Wednesday May 20, 2020, where a massive sanitization effort as well as Cover-19 screening and testing campaign was taking place. South Africa has the continent's highest number of confirmed cases and has eased its restrictions to allow an estimated 1.6 million people to return to work in selected mines, factories and businesses. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
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South African National Defense Forces check the temperature near the Pan Africa taxi rank in Johannesburg's Alexandra township Wednesday May 20, 2020, where a massive sanitization effort as well as Cover-19 screening and testing campaign was taking place. South Africa has the continent's highest number of confirmed cases and has eased its restrictions to allow an estimated 1.6 million people to return to work in selected mines, factories and businesses. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Close to two dozen people have escaped from coronavirus quarantine centers in Zimbabwe, state-run media reported Wednesday, adding that others are illegally crossing the border from South Africa and not reporting to the centers.

The Herald newspaper, citing officials, reported that 23 people have escaped in the past week, 19 of them from a hotel in Beitbridge, a usually busy border town.

Zimbabwe is using schools, colleges and hotels for the mandatory isolation of people entering the country during a lockdown that is now in its sixth week.

Some returnees have complained about poor conditions at quarantine centers. Zimbabwe’s government has said it is doing its best to ensure a comfortable stay.

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Hundreds of people have arrived from South Africa by the busload in recent weeks. With more than 17,000 confirmed cases, South Africa has the highest number of infections in Africa.

Millions of Zimbabweans live in South Africa legally and illegally to escape worsening economic conditions back home, but some are returning after jobs dried up due to South Africa’s virus lockdown.

Zimbabwe has close to 50 virus cases but remains on high alert as the number is expected to rise. Authorities fear the situation could worsen if people entering the country are not isolated for 21 days or are not accounted for.

It’s not just Zimbabweans crossing the busy South African border. Nine of 41 Malawians intercepted while looking for transport to return to their country after illegally crossing from South Africa this week have tested positive for the virus, the Herald reported.