By Nokuthaba Dlamini
Some returning citizens in Covid-19 quarantine centres in Matabeleland North are giving social welfare officials fake names and residential addresses for them to escape from the facilities without any trace, police have said.
The province is still failing to locate and arrest 15 male escapees who evaded Mabhikwa High School Covid-19 quarantine centre in June.
According to social welfare documents, the escapees who did not provide their ages and identification documents were said to be from Lupane, Tsholotsho and Umguza districts.
This, according to Matabeleland North police spokesperson Chief Inspector Siphiwe Makonese has resulted in police failing to track and arrest the escapees.
She, however, said police have managed to arrest some of the deserters and are still tracing the other 15.
“We apprehended twelve people from Lupane through our task force, and we are yet to arrest the rest. Getting them is proving to be difficult as most of them gave wrong home addresses and ages. This is a cause for concern for us,” she said.
Makonese’s sentiments were also echoed by national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi who cautioned villagers against harbouring the escapees.
He said it was every citizen’s duty to ensure that they protect themselves and others without having to be forced by security and health officials.
“This disease is very deadly and it is disappointing that very few people seem to be taking it seriously,” said Nyathi.
“We have had multiple reports of returning residents that escape for quarantine and isolation centres and even border jumpers and villagers tend to hide them for law and health officials.”
He added: “This has however led to many of them getting infected together with their families and have tested positive…people should do away with this mentality that coronavirus does not exist or kills. Right now we should be talking about safety rather than the issues of police arrests and this is what we should maintain as citizens.”
More than 200 people are said to have escaped from mandatory quarantine with President Mnangagwa recently warning that deserting from a quarantine centre will be “considered a criminal act and invite a very robust response from our law and public health-enforcement arms.”