42 Days into the lockdown and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare reported that as at 9 May 2020, they have conducted 10 944 rapid screening tests and 9 593 PCR tests. Statistics show that a new COVID-19 was confirmed in Harare yesterday. Therefore, to date a total of 36 cases have been confirmed as COVID-19 positive.
We note that Zimbabwe’s cases have clearly been characterised by local transmission as being the driver of infections. In this regard we are as yet unaware of the tracing system in place to support and strengthen the Government proactive detection of cases. Whilst the testing of returning residents and deportees presently is notable the gaps arise, in reference to the 13 000 returning residence who entered the country prior to week two (2) and week (3) three of the lockdown, whose motoring and tracing remains unknown. The failure of government, to date, to publicise the report of the much vaunted monitoring of this group of persons, leads suspicions that such monitoring operationally did not occur.
We therefore, legitimately remain concerned that infections are greater than the group upon which testing is being currently targeted and directed towards, effectively meaning, that the COVID-19 detection approach being taken by Zimbabwe is largely reactive and presents a real risk of under testing and missing cases which may be driven by asymptomatic persons.
We further warn the Government and the public of notable shifts in the health responses across the world where there in a growing acknowledgement on other possible symptoms of COVID-19 and the investigations of increased COVID-19 in minors. We urge the Government to remain vigilant in this regard.
Warning the Government of Zimbabwe to remain aware of easing of lockdown as cases rise. Experience across the world on this global pandemic indicate that many countries who are easing lockdown measures are facing rapid increases in cases. We warn that Government must resist the temptation to present a grand reopening of the economy.
We urge the health sector policy makers to support the facilitation of the keeping up to date with currently medications and treatment therapies for the COVID-19 to ensure that our National Response remains on the most updated case management of this health burden.
We note the reception and placement into quarantine of Zimbabwean retuning residents and deportees. We raise concerns however of the state of mandatory quarantine centres in regards to access to water and sanitation, food and treatment of quarantined persons.
- We note with concern, persons who are absconding quarantine before their quarantine period expires.
- We note further those who persons who have not been accounted for after entering quarantine.
- We urge for appropriate security measures for persons mandatorily quarantined.
We urge the Government to ensure adequate support and transparency into quarantine and isolation centres to protect the rights of both the health personnel and also the rights of persons quarantine.
Zimbabwe joins the world in commemorating Mother’s Day, during the COVID-19 outbreak, We celebrate women who biologically and non-biologically mother their families, friends and communities. We note the women leading the frontline response to stop COVID-19 extending their duty of care across the nation.
We remind the nation that the appropriate measure of supporting women remains in recognising and rewarding and reducing the unfair burden of care upon women which alters their equitable access to opportunities socially economically and politically.
- We reiterate policy prioritisation of women and girls, in the implementation of the social protection programs.
- We reaffirm our call on Government to ensure that there is a reduction in women’s time poverty in particular ensuring access to safe bulk portable water and provision of clean, affordable, acceptable and accessible energy.
- We urge government to deploy social service workers who can lead in providing social welfare assistance to ameliorate the undue burden faced by women at household level.
- We call to the attention of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, to remain resolute in monitoring and ensuring that the equality gap does not widen further.
Noting that in some families some men and boys are actively contributing to providing care and support to their families and household members;
- We therefore, call upon men and boys who may as yet not recognise the undue strain faced by women to step up and be progressive active players in the provision of household care and wellbeing for their families.
We continue to question the policy on Public Holidays as Zimbabwe officially has a public holidays for highly masculinised demographics and actions yet no formal day for women.
Critical Emerging Issues
1. Provision of Psychosocial Support
We continue to note with distress the levels of the trauma that personnel in the healthcare service sector are undergoing and the real concerns of operating without access to sufficient level of PPE.
We note the crisis of nurses across the country who remain struggling to access adequate PPE and other working conditions to provide adequate support as their acquit high risk duties.
Noting similarly, the continuing trauma of persons screened for COVID-19 and their loved one as there are tested, await and receive results.
We reiterate that the current protocols do not address the need to provide counselling to health personnel nor is there any counselling for potential suspect COVID-19 cases and their families.
- Cognisant of the correlation between mental wellbeing and its impact on physical health recovery process,
We buttress our calls upon Government to ensure urgent provision of the counselling to both healthcare workers and persons screened and tested for COVID-19.
- We note that the failure to address the chronic counselling needs, fuels stigma, and negative social behaviours;
- We therefore continue to call upon the Government to deploy social workers and community case care workers to address heightened household and community level need for psychosocial support and strengthened social cohesion practises.
2. Scarcity of basic commodities
We continue to note growing reports from our networks, indicating scarcity of basic commodities such as mealie meal, sugar cooking oil, flour and green bar soap. This has been noted by our networks in Shurugwi, Kwekwe and Gweru Urban and other areas in Harare. Recognising that this situation has exacerbated the level of food insecurity and hunger within already distressed households, and gravely concerned that women are the most vulnerable on all dimensions of food security; Aware that Government, a few weeks ago announced a price freeze on all basic commodities;
- We reiterate our calls on the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to investigate these concerns and establish strategies to ensure that basic commodities remain accessible to all.
3. Holistic Enforcement of COVID-19 Measures
This week we have noted with concern growing trend on messaging and enforcement of COVID-19 measures fixated to ensuring adherence to mandatory mask wearing. It has not been extended to adherence and enforcement of physical and social distancing measures in the transition into Level 2, particularly in the public transport nodes, rural areas and markets.
The unbalanced focus on mandatory mask wearing is coming at a cost of other COVID-19 preventative methods;
Concerned that failure to adequately observe social and physical distancing may erode all the gains recorded so far in the COVID-19 battle
- We continue to remind the Government that physical and social distancing remain critical COVID-19 prevention measures and should not be relaxed in an effort to resume livelihoods. This is the new normal
- We urge the general populace to fortify their efforts in maintaining both mask wearing and physical distancing in every environment which may include work, food markets, public transport or supermarkets.
4. Resumption of High Demand Government Services
We reiterate our concern at the operational and administrative capacity of Government to plan and implement service delivery for high demand public services with appropriate COVID19 measures in place and also with the consideration that post lock down certain services will inevitably have backlogs and state departments will face large numbers of citizens urgently needing services, including but not limited to;
- access to family planning, maternal, neo natal and infant care,
- access to national registration Documents,
- Zimbabwe Tax Revenue Services
- Deeds Registry Services
- Central Vehicle Registry
- Ministry of Transport and applicable department for permits etc
We continue to urge Government to announce in advance the plans to provide these services in a clear and safe manner and desist from simply limiting numbers of persons seeking services without prior-announcement of alternatives or methods to deal with large numbers of the public.
This SITREP is developed by and through, the collective network of organisational and individual members of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, who are engaged at community levels to national levels in the COVID19 Zimbabwe response.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)