March 19, 2020 / 3:58 PM / 16 days ago

South Africa to erect 40km fence on Zimbabwe border as coronavirus measure

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African authorities announced on Thursday they would erect a fence along its border with Zimbabwe to prevent illegal immigrants from entering and spreading the coronavirus.

President Ramaphosa has already ordered 35 out of 53 land entry points closed.

“This measure will ... not be effective if the fences at the border are not secure, which in many places, they are not,” Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille said in a statement.

The planned fence is to be erected on either side of the Beitbridge Land Port of Entry, in order to “ensure that no undocumented or infected persons cross into the country.”

“All 40 kilometres (25 miles) of fence will be finished within one month. Local labour will be sourced by the contractor,” she added.

South Africa has long sought to reduce illegal immigration from Zimbabwe, which it sees as a threat to local jobs in a country with unemployment of around 30 percent.

Countries around the world have been cancelling flights, banning travel from certain countries and tightening controls at borders in order to prevent the virus’s spread.

Ministers announced other measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus while limiting the impact of its side effects such as panic buying in supermarkets.

Reporting by Tim Cocks; editing by David Evans

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