Testing and Tracing – Are we there yet? Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 30 Update

30 days into Zimbabwe’s Lockdown and less than a week away from the ending of the lockdown, Zimbabwe’s number of positive COVID19 patients is on the rise. As at 27 April 2020, Zimbabwe had conducted a total 6 834 diagnostic and screening tests nationwide. Earlier, Government of Zimbabwe had set a target to perform at least 33 000 tests by 30 April 2020. Clearly, the reach of testing is insufficient. The low number of tests performed and the context of the COVID19 positive patients indicate that the testing reach, is reactive as opposed to proactive.

We are testing where there is an indication of infection. We are not yet expansively testing classes of persons and therefore it means at community level, communities risk being susceptible to infections as they may be lax in their approach to the protective wear, sanitization and social distancing. Targeted testing will remain an area of critical concern as Zimbabwe nears the deadline of the testing date with growing demand to easing of lockdown measures.

Therefore, whilst we may note the rollout of testing program at Mpilo Central Hospital, Bulawayo, which began today, targeting both health workers and patients, and while we may note the intent to ensure malaria patients are also tested for COVID19, we remain concerned,

  • at the prioritisation of testing and screening of all malaria cases in the districts where malaria has been recorded.
  • regarding the testing of the those with respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia which are part of the seasonal flu infections, in addition,
  • the still outstanding matter of the monitoring as testing of the 13 00 returning residents which returned during the first week of the lockdown. This class of persons must be traced and tested so as to strengthen the identification of patients which COVID19 and communities facing possible infections.

Realising that the rise in positive COVID19 cases and the knowledge that COVID19 will be part of our lives until a vaccine or cure is found it is important ensure that the rapid resuscitation and sustenance of the public health sector is prioritised and fully resourced at all levels. Noting, the incredible levels of support from the private sector, development partners, organisations and individuals coming forward with donations both financial and material:

  • We recommend for the government to speed up efforts to address Healthcare workers’ working conditions and welfare support needs.
  • We also call on The Ministry of Health and Childcare to step up efforts for increased support for Personal Protective Equipment for health workers and other essential services providers at all levels.

Appreciating the alertness of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to accountability during this period;

Concerned that 30 days into the lock down, there has been no public unveiling of the comprehensive state resourcing of the COVID-19 national response plan;

  • We call upon the Parliament of Zimbabwe and our Members of Parliament to remain vigilant on the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of government institutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic;

We note, finally, a progressive decision on the matter of rentals and real estate contractual obligations which we have been raising. We commend the;

  • moratorium on evictions both commercial and residential,
  • proposal to ease payments over a period of time for rentals due,
  • Payments on properties and payment due based on properties owned or rented.

We applaud the Tobacco sector on its proactive and public engagement regards to COVID-19 preparedness. In the same breath, the nation still awaits the Mining sector’s engagement and the announcement of its COVID-19 response plan, giving consideration to the fact that the mining sector resumed operation over a week ago following the reprieve granted by Government.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Rural Community transmission of COVID-19

Whilst we note the testing and tracing of COVID-19 in rural areas, particularly Mhondoro and Murehwa and,

While noting the reassurance given earlier today, by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, that our rural health structures are adequately prepared to respond to the threats presented by these cases,

  • We remain concerned that this might not be a true reflection of what is on the ground, particularly given the communal lifestyle which the majority of our rural populations follow, particularly in food distribution programs, the accessing water in community water points, and limited access to health facilities amongst others.
  • We therefore call upon the Government to treat rural community transmissions seriously, and provide strategies to curb further spread of the disease.

2. Water and sanitation

We remain deeply distressed at the failure to address the nation to present a clear prioritised and escalated plan to address the chronic shortage of safe portable bulk water to communities across Zimbabwe sustainably. Temporary trucking of water is not sustainable.

Noting efforts to drill and rehabilitate boreholes , providing trucked water to communities and health institutions;

We continue to reiterate that beneath Zimbabwe’ public health challenges lies the inaccessibility of water on a large scale. The nature of COVID-19 as well as the recurring outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases perennially in Zimbabwe, concretize the urgency for long term solutions to Zimbabwe’s water and sanitation crises.

The inability for households to have continuous access to clean portable water directly reduce the capacities of communities to protect themselves from illnesses and maintain good hygiene.

  • Zimbabwe can prioritise differently. We urge the rapid escalation of medium- and long-term water solutions as part of the COVID-19 response actions.

Outstanding Issues

1. Restrictions in Accessing Non-COVID19 Health Care Services

Applauding the recognition, earlier today, by the Ministry of Health and Child-Care, for the need to ensure uninterrupted access to non-COVID19 health care services;

However, concerned by growing reports in our networks of communities failing to access health services

  • We reinforce our call for special attention to uninterrupted accessibility and provision of health services including services required for pregnant women.
  • We continue to call for the provision of the healthcare series and public health access to affordable medication particularly, for persons with chronic illness.
  • We also call on government to message appropriately to health centres to ensure the provision of non-COVID-19 related health services during the lockdown.
  • We urge the health facilities and health personnel to not turn away patients.

2. Easing of Lockdown Measures

Fully aware that Lockdown is a temporary measures to halt the spread of the COVID19 infections and strengthen the ability of the health system to deal with COVID19 case load in a safe and manageable manner we remain concerned at the delays in announcing broad-based measures on the road ahead.

We reiterate that Government must place possible easing of measures steps PRIOR to the end of the lockdown.

  • Measures such as the wearing of masks
  • Public transport measures in particular the resumption of commuter omnibuses
  • Social and communal gatherings and activities
  • Resumption of the schooling in a scale manner
  • The Provisions of Government services in key service centres that deal with large numbers of people such as the Office of the Registrar and VID office etc
  • The Financial services sector including insurance and pensions
  • The opening of public recreational centres including sports, arts and culture facilities and
  • Personal care industry including and not limited to salons, spa’s, gyms, etc
  • The reopening of mechanic garages, carpentry centres and other industries that have personnel working in close contact

We remind government that measures must be announced in advance to permit the applicable sectors and members of the public to prepare and be aware of expected protocols.

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)

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