99 days into the lockdown, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that as at 5 July 2020, the total number of Covid-19 had increased to 716 after 18 new cases tested positive. 15 new confirmed cases were recorded from returnees, while 3 cases are from local transmissions. We note the steady and ongoing rise in local transmissions which are now at 110.
We highlight the WHO cancellation and cessation of the trials of the usage of Hydroxychloroquine and HIV treatment combination Lopinavir/ Ritonavir from ongoing Covid-19 trials, after a recommendation from the International Steering Committee advising the same to find a working treatment in hospitalized patients.
We highlight that the WHO recommendation comes after evidence from all trials were reviewed and summarised and duly noted that Hydroxychloroquine and Lopinavir/Ritonavir produced little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized Covid-19 patients when compared to standard of care. This critical recommendation comes at a time when the numbers of Covid-19 cases in Zimbabwe are at an increase and the potential of increased hospitalised cases are also on the rise.
Critical Emerging Issues
Abscondment from Quarantine Centres
We continue to record cases of returnees escaping from Quarantine Centres, with the latest incidents having occurred at the Beitbridge Quarantine Centres.
We note the risk posed by absconding returnees as there is a possibility that without knowing their Covid-19 status, they may mingle with the rest of the communities and spread the infection.
- We therefore call for stringent measures in fortifying security systems within the quarantine facilities to ensure that no one absconds the same.
- We further urge Government to ensure that the facilities are fully capacitated to meet the diverse needs of the diverse quarantined returnees. This includes sanitization, decent meals, adequate sexual and reproductive health services and supplies, to both men and women.
Shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
We have noted growing concerns over the shortages of PPE for frontline health workers.
Reports reveal that PPE shortages are being reported as deeply distressing reports of 13 staff members at Mpilo Hospital testing positive to the virus, and 197 other hospital workers being placed in isolation. This takes 210 critical frontline health sector staff at one institution out of the fight against the spread of Covid-19.
PPE as well as a host of other measures as advised by the WHO are critical in protecting the health sector to ensure that when the surge comes, the capacity of the health sector to respond is at its maximum capacity.
- We urge Government to value and promote the safety of frontline workers by minimizing their risk of exposure to the virus.
- We further reiterate the need to escalate procurement processes of PPE for frontline workers.
- We continue to call for the publication of the distribution matrix of critical health supplies by province to be published as a standard good governance practice in the time of the global pandemic and national emergency.
- We continue to add for the greatest transparency in Covid-19 supplies’ procurement and distribution.
On-Going Strikes and Health Professionals
The conditions within the health sector continue to deteriorate as the Nation grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic. Health professionals have gone on strike for over 2 weeks, and this has seen citizens, particularly vulnerable groups such as expecting mothers failing to adequately access pre and post-natal care.
While the health professionals have been demanding better working conditions, today we witnessed Government deploying Riot Police at Harare Hospital, who in turn were beating up and dispersing the Health Professionals. This is unacceptable.
Workers’ rights are rights that ought to be respected. Undue violence and a host of other actions seeking to undermine the voices of workers does not deliver the best sustainable outcomes the county wants.
The rights to patient care are not best delivered by undermining the rights of essential workers.
- We urge government to return to the negotiating table in the existing dialogue platforms in the country and engage in progressive substantive dialogue.
- We urge all parties to consider, develop and implement reasonable, acceptable working solutions to meet the needs of all stakeholders.
- Further we urge our Government to prioritise better and remember that health is life.
Improper and Non-Existent Adherence to Mandatory Mask Wearing
Reports continue to reveal heightened lack of compliance with public health guidelines and safety protocols.
Our networks in Hwange, Guruve, and Chivi have reported that the majority of communities no longer take heed of Covid-19 pandemic, as they demonstrate complacency and argue that the Nation is now out of the woods.
Increasingly distressed and alarmed by the widespread national practice of non-wearing of masks and non-adherence to social distancing in both rural and urban communities which we have raised before this report, we highlight that public sentiment on Covid-19 clearly undermines the severity and importance of Covid-19 prevention measures.
Other reports have shown a continued improper use of masks, by the majority of citizens who move around with masks hanging on their chins.
- We therefore urge proper use of masks as per the guidelines by WHO.
- We further recommend enhanced awareness programmes by Government which is the lead player in a pandemic and strong the support of stakeholders such as civil society organisations and the private sector in raising critical awareness in communities on the reality of Covid-19.
- We further recommend a strong campaign on mask usage and disposal we reiterate the common cited practice of persons “trying on masks”, the sharing of masks and the washing and reuse of disposable masks.
- We reiterate that Government itself must speak out loudly and clearly on this issue as it reflects practical reality on the ground.
- We further call upon Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, Councillors, District Administrator’s and government official who when in public often wear their masks with their noses outside especially in public meetings and where there is press to desist from this practice. It fuels and reinforces a poor mask wearing culture and ultimately defeats the purpose of the mask wearing measures if national leadership is seen to fail to adhere to such a simple task.
Operations of Nightspots and Drinking Spots
Reports from our networks continue to indicate deeply widespread practise of the pubs, bars and drinking spots both legal and illegal selling in rural and urban communities who are selling alcohol and serving patrons well into the night and operating beyond the prescribed Covid-19 regulations.
Recent reports from our networks implicate the communities in Budiriro 5 and Kuwadzana. Of particular concern are the reports of non-adherence to mask wearing, social distancing, testing of temperature and no facilities to either wash hands or usage of sanitizer.
Further problematizing such reports are cases that include the practice of enforcement officers frequenting the same spots or passing though without taking any actions.
- We remind enforcement services that public policing includes community policing, which is centred on the principles of ensuring communities are able to respect the regulations and securing community cooperation.
- We reiterate that the above principle is foundational to enforcement of Covid-19 regulations and particularly to the ultimate goal of slowing the spread of the disease.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe