Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 43 – WCoZ Covid-19 Situation Report

43 Days into the lockdown and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare reported that as at 10 May 2020, they have conducted 11 664 rapid screening tests and 9 872 PCR tests. To date, a total of 36 cases have been confirmed as COVID-19 positive.

As we are left with 6 days before the end of the lockdown, we highlight the WHO 6-point guidance published to support policymakers as they make decisions over phased resumptions of the economic and social activities.
We call upon the Government to publicly respond to these critical guidelines in advance and with enough clarity for citizens to avoid the potential of increased infections on full resumption of economic and social operations. In doing so, the following questions must be interrogated:

  • Is the pandemic under control in Zimbabwe?
  • Is the Zimbabwean healthcare system able to cope with a resurgence of cases that may arise after relaxing certain lockdown measures?
  • Is the Zimbabwean public health surveillance system able to detect and manage the cases and their contacts, and identify a resurgence of cases?

As guided by the WHO, we note the guidelines and further call upon our policy makers that even with three positive answers, relaxing lockdowns is both complex and difficult as the evidence across the world indicates an increase in infections upon relaxation of measures. To this end, we hereby call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to address the unbalanced enforcement of lockdown restrictions, particularly on the wearing of mask yet neglecting adherence to physical and social distancing standards, which have proven to be key players in the spreading of infections.

We further reiterate once more, the difficulties presented by the failure of the Ministry of Health and Child-care to issue official guidelines on the types of masks, mask usage , disposal and re-usage to be adopted by the general populace.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Health-care rights under threat

Concerned with reports which continue to pour in of incidents where women have been denied their right to access health care services, including reproductive health and immunisation -care at various clinics and hospitals. Today we received a report from our networks in Gwanda, concerning 5 women who were denied access to health services at Phakama Council Clinic, by the nurses.

In Mvuma, our networks have reported drug shortages at Mvuma Hospital, further citing that they are prompted to travel to Gweru to purchase certain medication. It has also been reported that travelling to Gweru, is averagely costing $4USD, using mshika-shika transport, as ZUPCO is not operating in the area.

The same challenge has also been noted by our networks in Guruve, Mushumbi and Mahuwe areas. In Bulawayo, Ward 23, it has been reported that women are facing challenges in accessing sanitary wear, as pads have become scarce;

  • We continue to urge the State and health authorities to fight the temptation to de-prioritize other health-care services, with the intention to solely focus on COVID-19.
  • Buttressing numerous calls, we have made previously, we bring to the fore section 76 of the constitution, which guarantees the right to health care as a fundamental human right, and mandates the State to ensure progressive realization of this right.

2. Non-adherence to social distancing

Reports from our networks indicate relaxation by the public in adhering to lockdown measures. Our grassroots networks report that in Plumtree, the majority of residents, have since the inception of Level 2, been defying social distancing, particularly large gatherings at Avoca Dam, where revellers have been hosting beer parties. In Caledonia, reports also show that most tuckshops owners have resumed operations, without following safety protocols such as putting on masks and use of sanitizers. We have also noted reports of lack social distancing in Chipinge, particularly at N Richards.

  • This raises concern, noting that recently the Nation has been recording a number of community-transmission cases.
  • We therefore urge the public to remain alive to and uphold the safety protocols for curbing spread of the disease.

Outstanding Issues

1. Protecting and supporting adolescent girls

Remaining alive to the fact that COVID-19 has resulted in the unprecedented disruption in educational sector, not only in Zimbabwe, but the world over.
Further noting that children will spend most of their time at home and in communities, due to the indefinite closure of schools.

We continue to warn on the high probability of adolescent girls’ exposure to sexual exploitation, and child marriages. In mitigating these risks, and developing early warning systems, we recommend the following:

  • Government agencies, Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit (VFU), Social Welfare Department, and civil society organisations to prioritise awareness raising and support services on protecting adolescent girls, and to create a more solid community base for the welfare and protection of children, particularly adolescent girls, during disasters and disaster recovery.

2. Holistic Enforcement of COVID-19 Measures

We continue to note with dismay, growing trends 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.

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)