Zimbabwe Lockdown: DAy 211 – WCoZ Situation Report

210 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as of 25 October 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 8 276 after 7 new cases were reported. Active cases went down to 247 after 12 new recoveries were recorded. The total number of recoveries stands at 7 795. The death toll stands at 237.

We highlight the second phase of the reopening of schools as we note that today was the reopening of non-examination classes across the country. We further highlight the surges of crowds in public spaces particularly in the CBD in the past 48hours owing to the reopening of schools, with stores and shops supplying education materials having large scale numbers of clients and queues which did not abide by the COVID-19 measures. We note further the congestion in the public transport sector. All these factors, in our view, represent a high risk of the potential spread of COVID-19.

Commending the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for the adoption of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to guide adoption and adherence to safety under COVID-19 in schools and the inclusion of a sentinel surveillance system to support early detection of outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools. We however continue to raise alarm at the efficacy of such measures when they are not underpinned by testing of students and teacher population in the schools.

We note further that the sharing of desks and textbooks has been banned under COVID-19. We therefore continue to wait for the unveiling of practical, resourced measures to ensure that fragile, underprivileged schools with grossly inadequate learning materials will be supported to ensure non-discriminatory and exclusionary practices and measures. In the same breath, we therefore continue to highlight the need to prioritise the safety of learners and their teachers, from potential COVID-19 risks. 

Noting the ongoing challenges within the Education sector which require speedy redress. We therefore recommend:

  • Engagement in dialogue between Government and teachers in resolving the ongoing challenges.
  • Testing of learners and teachers for COVID-19.
  • Strengthening safety protocols and measures within the Education sector to minimize risk of transmission of COVID-19 in schools.
  • Provision of facemasks and sanitizers at no cost to pupils and teachers. 

Critical Emerging Issue

Live shows with large physical audiences in the Artistic Community 

We highlight the reports of artistes holding live shows with physical audiences, which in itself is a contravention of COVID-19 regulations. Whilst we note, and highlight the incredible difficulties faced by the artistic community of Zimbabwe as a result of the lockdown restrictions and regulations that bar live performance shows which drive the lives and livelihoods of the sector, we raise alarm at the increased holding of live shows which have the potential to be super spreader events. In the same breath, we note the reports of widespread occurrence of popular liquor nightspots, weekend gigs and other popular venues hosting live music shows around the country, without adherence to COVID-19 measures. 

We note the consistent and persistent rise in COVID-19 cases over the past 15 days and note with concern that the mass resumption of sectors, without enforcement of COVID-19 regulations, is leading Zimbabwe up the curve of the COVID-19 contraction of new cases. It is against this background that we acknowledge the statements of the Zimbabwe Republic Police on the need to strictly enforce COVID-19 regulations.

  • We therefore call for increased awareness and publication of simplified rules on COVID-19 regulations.
  • We call for the expedition of real-time support to the artistic sector through both the resilience funds and the vulnerability support to ensure that the fragile arts sector receives real ameliorative support in the context of the on-going ban on their socio-economic engagements.

Outstanding Issue 

Testing of soccer referees 

We highlight the contentious matter regarding resumption of soccer events which focus on the testing mechanisms being deployed for soccer referees in Zimbabwe. 

We note, with grave concern that the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) through the ZIFA Referees Committee has requested all 93 referees to report to ZIFA House in Harare to submit to COVID-19 tests on the 31st of October 2020, 4 days from today. We further note that the referees are being required to submit to a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT). 

Whilst we commend efforts to ensure that the resumption of various sectors is supported by testing programs for those sectors which ZIFA has undertaken, unlike other sectors previously highlighted in these reports, we continue to raise concern at the manner in which testing programs are being designed and deployed.

  • We therefore amplify the grave concerns raised by Referees expressing the adoption of RDT testing, which is considered unreliable and insufficient to give a high level of accuracy and true picture of the COVID-19 prevalence in the tested community, as opposed to Polymerise Chain Reaction (PCR) testing which is considered more reliable. 
  • We amplify the concerns raised by sporting officials who seek the adoption of a stronger testing regime to support their activities in the sports and recreation sector which are characterised by extreme caution globally in order to reduce and eliminate opportunities for exposure and contraction of the COVID-19 virus.
  • We call upon the Sport and Recreation Commission to intervene in this matter and ensure ZIFA upholds the highest levels of good governance on this matter including addressing the transparency and accountability of the USD$44 000 made available by FIFA to support COVID-19 interventions in Zimbabwe’s sporting community.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe