In a unique approach to become COVID-free and encourage the recovery of tourism, the government of Zimbabwe have prioritised the tourism sector, and in particular Victoria Falls, to get vaccinated in phase two of their vaccination roll out campaign – a policy that could see Victoria Falls become the first City in the World to become vaccine compliant.
On Monday 22nd March, a mass roll out vaccination programme began in the City of Victoria Falls, where all adults 18 years and above (except pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers) would be granted access to free vaccinations of the Sinopharm vaccine, in an effort to protect the residents of Victoria Falls, build confidence in regional and international traveller markets, and see the recovery of tourism to Zimbabwe.
Yesterday, his excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa; the Vice President and Minister of Health & Child Care, Comrade General Chiwenga, and the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism And Hospitality, Honourable Minister Ndlovu, flew into Victoria Falls to conduct an official ceremony of the Phase Two Vaccination roll out, and were themselves vaccinated whilst in the destination.
The Ministry of Health medical teams on the ground in Victoria Falls, working with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and stakeholders, have done an outstanding job in setting up vaccination centre’s and mobile units to cover as much ground as possible in a professional and efficient manner. In just three days the turn out has been exemplary, as stakeholders and residents have eagerly and patiently stood in line to receive their first vaccination.
“It has been extremely efficient and well organised,” said Mike Johnson, owner of The Bayete Collection, “we are immensely proud to be part of our wonderful City of Victoria Falls and the continued efforts to make this one of the most sought after destinations post-COVID.”
Given that Victoria Falls has historically relied so heavily on tourism, and that it was the major source of revenue and livelihoods in the region, the impact throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the residents and stakeholders alike. The vaccination roll out has however sparked an immense amount of excitement with stakeholders and the wider community.
“We are excited as a Tourism Industry that this windfall vaccination programme is going to revive tourism to the destination, and it has certainly bought an immense amount of hope to us all,” commented Tendai Nemaungwe from Premier Guest Lodge.
“The vaccination rollout has been such an important step towards the safe resumption of the tourism industry and reigniting our livelihoods. As a family man, it provides a sense of safety for me, my family; our community and our country,” says Sam Mushandu, owner of Rukoko Safaris based in Victoria Falls.
“One year on as we embark on the mass vaccination program it is my hope that the sleeping giant can be awakened again and life and livelihoods be restored. I must commend the people of Victoria Falls for their response to the vaccination program with 6140 people vaccinated in just three days as of Wednesday 24th of March. We would like to thank the Victoria Falls community for taking responsibility to not only protect themselves but also our wider community and for doing their part in the process of bringing back the tourism on which so many livelihoods depend,” said Dr Fungai Mvula, the Acting DMO for Matabeland North.
Prioritising the vaccination of the residents of Victoria Falls and the wider tourism sector will no doubts be a game changer for the destination, not only in terms of building confidence in the international tourism markets and assisting in the recovery of tourism, but also in terms of salvaging and rebuilding the livelihoods of the communities who live here and who were severely impacted by the pandemic.