The Eased-Locked down that is a lockdown no-more? Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 52 – WCoZ Covid-19 Situation Report

52 Days into the lockdown, and the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that as at 20 May 2020, cumulatively a total of 18 244 rapid screening tests and 14 618 PCR diagnostic tests had been conducted. The total number of positive cases has risen to 48. This comes after 2 female returnees tested positive today.

We are concerned with the functionality and operation of the lockdown that this stage. The reality is that currently in Zimbabwe, especially during the day, there is very limited sense of a lockdown. This is despite the sustained border closures, compliance with the limit of 50 persons at funerals and other social gatherings, mandatory wearing of masks, resumption of the formal businesses across essentially all sectors subject to a few conditions; the closure of education sector, however the increased movement of the citizens to get to work, the keeping of supply lines open and operational functionality of food stalls and food suppliers. These measures which have been put in place do not correspond with the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases.

We highlight once more, as incidents are on the rise, the living conditions at most mandatory isolation centres. We are concerned regarding;

  • Appropriate, applicable safety and security measures in place at centres to address the complex blend of retuning residents and deportees of various classes.
  • Access to services, including sexual and reproductive health services in centres.
  • Access to applicable and supportive services for children, the elderly and women.
  • Appropriate and adequate water and sanitization.

This follows reports of an additional 19 returnees who are alleged to have escaped quarantine in Beitbridge on Monday the 17th of May 2020. The total number of persons escaping mandatory quarantine, according to our sources, has therefore risen to 28. Such disturbing news which point to poor security systems, come at a time when Government recently released a report reassuring the nation that security systems at the centres had been beefed up with the support of the army.

Compounding the matter, is the report indicating 14 Malawians in a Masvingo mandatory quarantine Malawians have undertaken a hunger strike.

  • We are therefore concerned about the underlying issues that may be causing detainees to consider absconding as a viable option.
  • We call for an immediate inspection of mandatory quarantine and isolation centres by the Constitutional Commissions to ensure that the conditions at the facilities are adequate and appropriate.
  • We further call for the Parliament of Zimbabwe to remain vigilant and the Members of Parliament of the constituencies under which these centres fall, to urgently to address this critical issue.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Protection of the prison populations

Noting that we are yet to receive a publicized report on the protection of prison population;

Further noting that the courts have resumed operations under Level 2;

Further aware that on a daily basis there are new entrants who are sent to remand prison from the outside world, where they may have been exposed to the virus and remain asymptomatic;

Aware that most of our detention facilities may not be capacitated enough and that social distancing rules may be difficult to enforce;

  • We continue to urge Government to urgently publicize and implement a comprehensive crisis plan to cater for the rights, needs and safety of detainees in the COVID-19 era. Paying particular attention to vulnerable detainees such as juveniles, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions.

2. Observing the lockdown measures

Concerned with the reports from our networks indicating lockdown fatigue and non-observance of social distancing, particularly in Bindura, Chivi, Murehwa, Plumtree, Zvishavane and certain parts of Harare;

Deeply concerned with the level of traffic from high density areas, approaching Harare Central Business District;

  • We continue to urge citizens to continue observing social distancing and public health guidelines in efforts to contain the further spread of COVID-19.

We further urge the enforcement officers to remain vigilant and not relax, whilst on duty, in order to ensure full enforcement of the lockdown, while at the same time respecting citizens’ rights.

3. Security of the Persons in Mandatory Quarantine and Isolation Centres

We reiterate our concern of security measures in mandatory isolation and quarantine centres.

Sadly unsurprised at the reports of security incidents at mandatory isolation and quarantine centres.

Distressed at the risks and vulnerabilities of women, girls, children and the elderly;

  • We reiterate the need to ensure that deportees and retuning residents are not seen as a homogenous group and consider the risk profiles of persons and the applicable separation of the different sets of returning residents and deportees.
  • We call for the Government to ensure that safety of women, girls, children and the elderly in mandatory quarantine centres.
  • We continue to call for Government to ensure adequate provision of sexual and reproductive health services in quarantine centres to both men and women without stigma.

We remind all citizens, that Zimbabweans throughout the world have the rights to return to Zimbabwe, their home country. And that no persons shall be stateless

  • We condemn public statements and sentiments, that seek to fuel a negative narrative against Zimbabweans who are returning to Zimbabweans voluntarily and other wide
  • All citizens have a right to be protected from statelessness

4. Safety of Public transport

Reports from our grassroots networks continue to point to non-existence of social and physical distancing measures while accessing public transport.

The lack of capacity by ZUPCO to meet the growing demands of commuters as the eased lockdown in continued indefinitely must be addressed urgently before transport hubs and ZUPCO services become points of high risk exposure to potential infection. We raise the poor adherence and enforcement of the social and physical distancing witnessed in Harare, Chinhoyi Bus terminus and Kwekwe.

  • We therefore continue to raise alarm on the risks posed by the public transport system in spreading the COVID-19.
  • We call upon the enforcement agent to effectively enforce social distancing at bus terminuses and pick up points.
  • We continue to call upon the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and also the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to enhance the capacity of the public transport system to cater for the high demand by the public.

Outstanding issues

1. Family Planning Pills

The majority of reports received from our chapters today raise a red flag on the shortage of family planning pills.

Reports from our networks in Bindura indicate women who are failing to access family planning pills exposing women to unplanned pregnancies and gender-based violence when adopting other means of contraceptives methods.

  • We highlight that family planning pills have been reported to be accessible only through the black market, and is being sold in US dollars only, at an average cost of US $1 per pill.
  • We reiterate our repeated calls for ramping up the availability of the family planning pills which were already in short supply prior to the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • We call for urgent attention to the supply lines for family planning pills specifically,
  • We urge Government to direct its attention and the strengthening of the long standing community distribution mechanisms of the same to ensure undisrupted access to sexual reproductive health and rights services including the supply of family planning pills.

While we understand that resource constrains bedevilling the nation in responding to COVID-19, we emphasize and warn against the temptation to abandon critical service delivery areas for women.

The government must strive to achieve operational and administrative balance in its ability to respond to public health needs of citizens.

2. Official Masks Guidelines

We continue to raise the fact that Government has yet to release official masks guidelines. We therefore put plainly to Government that citizens are;

  • Using various materials including, non-fabric products to make “face coverings”.
  • “Trying on” masks prior to purchasing.
  • “Using dust masks”.
  • Using disposable face masks all day for periods of over 3 days or more in many instances
  • Washing and ironing disposable face masks.
  • Wearing masks continuously for over 5 consecutive hours

Without clear, open and direct Zimbabwean guidelines masks, many citizens have difficulties in undertaking positive behavioral change, which is critical to save lives, in this regard.

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 COVID-19 Zimbabwe response.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)