South Africa to build fence on Zimbabwe border ‘to stem virus’

South Africa will build a fence along its border with Zimbabwe within 40 days to prevent people infected with coronavirus and undocumented migrants from entering its territory, Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille has said.

The construction would be part of the emergency measures that the government had decided to take after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the virus a national disaster on Sunday.

A 1.8m (5ft 11in) high fence, stretching for 20km (12.4 miles), would be built on either side of the Beitbridge border, the main crossing between the two nations, the minister said.

The number of people diagnosed in South Africa with the virus has risen to 150 since it was detected about two weeks ago in a South African who had visited Italy.

Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans live in South Africa. Many of them fled political violence and and an economic meltdown after their government embarked on a controversial land reform programme nearly two decades ago.

Zimbabwe has not reported any cases of the virus, but President Emmerson Mnangagwa has ordered the close of schools and other educational institutions from next Tuesday as a precautionary measure.