It’s all systems go for the launch of the second phase of the national vaccination programme by President Mnangagwa in Victoria Falls today where he will also take his first jab along with leaders of political parties and their spouses.
Government seeks to vaccinate the entire Victoria Falls population that is between 50 000 to 70 000 to ensure the safety of the people as the country also prepares for the re-emergence of the tourism sector.
The President has agreed to airlift leaders of political parties and their spouses and at least one official from their respective parties to the resort city for the vaccination, to symbolise an all-party approach in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba yesterday said all is set for the launch.
“The President will be in Victoria Falls tomorrow (today) alongside leaders of political parties. You will recall that some two or so days ago the President, through the Minister of Health who is also Vice-President, invited leaders of political parties to join him as he gets his first vaccination as a gesture of leadership and encouragement to the general public to come forward for vaccination as part of our response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Mr Charamba said the President decided to have the launch in Victoria Falls for three reasons, “two of which are personal and sentimental and one of which is national”.
“The national one is precisely because Victoria Falls is our tourism attraction of world renown. He asked for statistics of Victoria Falls residents and we established that the population of Victoria Falls is between 50 and 70 000 and looking at our vaccine stocks, we realised that we could afford to vaccinate the whole of Victoria Falls as part of our way of making Victoria Falls ready to resume unlimited operations as a tourism resort centre,” he said.
This, Mr Charamba said, arises from the fact that the country’s economic recovery programme stands on three pillars which include mining, agriculture and tourism — all of which are low hanging fruits.
“What you are looking at is the revival of Victoria Falls so that it functions even in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic but of course, the other dimension is we are also protecting our people who get exposed to international visitors and vice versa we are also protecting international visitors against local infections,” he said.
“The personal and sentimental one comes in two forms, firstly you will recall that when the President was released from the Rhodesian prison in the early 70s, he was released in Victoria Falls enroute to Zambia where he had been deported so Victoria Falls has that sentimental attachment to the President. Then of course towards the end of last year, he was given freedom of the city on the same day that Victoria Falls was declared a city.
“It’s a continuation of that celebration of conferment of freedom of the city and conferment of city status to Victoria Falls.
“So really, those are the three reasons that got the President to want to have his jab in Victoria Falls. But you are aware that it also has an international bourse, so really, it is critical for us to make Victoria Falls re-emerge from the pandemic as a safe international destination both from a tourism point of view, as well as from the point of view of general economics.”
On the invitation of leaders of political parties, Mr Charamba said: “The President has graciously agreed to airlift leaders of political parties to Victoria Falls, we expect that we have the leader of a political party, their spouse and maybe one official just to symbolise that all-party national response to the Covid-19 pandemic. And this was an open invitation, we did not write to any one political leader, we just made a pubic appeal the same way we made a similar appeal to church leaders.”
There has been a hive of activity in the resort city since Friday last week, when the Ministry of Health and Child Care team led by Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro engaged hoteliers before meeting all other stakeholders on Saturday.
On Sunday the team toured health facilities in the city before overseeing the start of the vaccination programme on Monday where some church leaders, the Joint Operation Command, hoteliers and some residents were vaccinated. Some were getting their second doses while it was the first time for others, as Dr Mangwiro said the vaccine was like a “silver bullet” for Victoria Falls which the city desperately needs to boost confidence and business.
Health authorities are buoyed by the response by Victoria Falls residents as scores turned up at various centres dotted around the city.
Government holds Victoria Falls in high esteem as a gateway into the country and destination boasting of the Mighty Victoria Falls, unparalleled tour activities and the Big Five game at surrounding national parks contributing significantly to the national economy’s Gross Domestic Product.
Government targets 60 percent herd immunity by vaccinating about 10 million of the country’s population to prevent spread of the deadly pandemic.
Dr Mangwiro said the response by the Victoria Falls community was encouraging.
“The turn-out has been so huge and we can’t believe, which is however, good for us. We are humbled by the co-operation in this city across all political and social divide. Hotels have provided space, transport and food while political parties chipped in with transport. This is encouraging and we wish it could be emulated by other cities,” said Dr Mangwiro.
The Second Republic’s attention on Victoria Falls seeks to catapult the tourism city into a world class destination. Government wants to make Victoria Falls its conference capital and plans are underway to construct a convention centre in Masue which will house state-of-the-art facilities including five-star hotels, conference rooms, medical centre and sports facilities for health and sports tourism.
Government designated Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone with a bias towards tourism and last year conferred city status to the municipality, showing Government’s commitment to developing the destination.