Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 120 – WCoZ Situation Report

120 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 27 July 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 2 704 after 172 cases tested positive today, of which 189 are local transmissions. The death toll has risen to 36. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached distressing levels in Zimbabwe, with notable and critical public institutions beginning to take hits. The Parliament of Zimbabwe today, was forced to suspend all its business, following 2 confirmed cases of Members of Parliament, 1 journalist and 1 bus driver testing positive. 

The National Social Security Authority has also been forced to temporarily close its doors, following confirmed cases amongst its employees.  These cases reinforce the concerns we have been raising over resumption of operations of the private and public sectors, without clear guidelines on mandatory testing of employees. The same concerns were raised previously regarding Parliament’s resumption of business, without a solid COVID-19 response plan, in ensuring that Members of Parliament are not exposed to the disease. 

The cases in regards to Parliament are particularly worrying, when one considers that a majority of Members of Parliament have been conducting business which involved physical meetings with communities. We therefore urge a robust tracing strategy to ensure that all contacts are traced and tested for COVID-19 in order to minimize community transmission.

At the same time, we note the incredible difficulties faced by critical national institutions in regards to remaining open and operational whilst also addressing the 80% increase in local transmission cases. The constitutional mandate of the Parliament of Zimbabwe is a grave and onerous mandate which is needed increasingly when the executive is the lead decision- maker in national processes. More so, the need for checks and balances in the governance space remain critical at this time when rights, freedoms and liberties are limited by the measures against the pandemic. We urge the Member of Parliament to remain vigilant, we urge the Chapter 12 institutions to remain seized with the vulnerable at this time and alive to their respective mandates.

We note growing reports from relatives of persons with COVID-19, who have been raising concern over lack of access to medical facilities for treatment and isolation.  Reports suggest that extreme cases of COVID-19, are being sent away home, due to lack of adequate and proper facilities to cater for such cases.  In some very distressing cases patients who have either significantly deteriorated or died whilst in car parks or hospital waiting areas prior to being attended and securing treatment.

We therefore recommend publication of an official State report, on the preparedness of the public health centres in dealing with confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

Critical Emerging Issues 

Over-crowding in banks 

It is upsetting to note the challenges which civil servants are facing in accessing their salaries at the banks. The challenges as noted today at some of the banks, have resulted in the public queuing for cash, disregarding social and physical distancing. The images captured today, showing the queues and overcrowding, tell a frightening story of the possibility of banks becoming a hotspot for COVID-19. 

  • The situation requires that critical and urgent measures be taken in order to ensure minimize queues and overcrowding at banks.

Report on testing of enforcement agents and the public sector

The news concerning the 2 members of Parliament, should come as an eye opener regarding the testing status of all officials who deal with the public on a daily basis. 

While we appreciate that enforcement officers, are working hard to ensure enforcement of the lockdown, which includes physically arresting persons, it is equally important for Government to assure the nation, that these officers do not pose a danger to the persons and communities wherein they are enforcing the lockdown. The question is: Have the enforcement officers been tested for COVID-19? If not, considering how the officers interact with citizens at roadblocks, physically inspecting and perusing licences and travel permits, how safe are citizens from a potential exposure to COVID-19? Again, in the absence of a clear testing strategy within the public sector and the enforcement sector, there is a danger that enforcement officers themselves may become another hotspot for infection. 

  • We therefore urge Government and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, to give a long outstanding report on the state of preparedness of the law enforcement department in responding to COVID-19.
  • We further urge Government to update the Nation on the progress of testing of all members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and all lockdown enforcement officers.

Outstanding Issues 

Report on the tracing of prison COVID-19 cases

Reports show that health authorities in Bulawayo have identified Khami Maximum Prison and Bulawayo Prison as hotspots for infection.  This is distressing, particularly considering that we are yet to receive a publicized report on the protection of prison population. 

Further noting that the Ministry of Health and Child Care is yet to update the nation on the tracing of COVID-19 cases recorded at Beitbridge and Plumtree Prisons;

  • We await the long overdue update on the COVID-19 tracing status of the Khami Maximum Prison, Bulawayo Prison and Beitbridge Prison.
  • 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.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe