Today marks 31 days in Zimbabwe’s lockdown. We are left with at least 4 days before the lockdown period expires. Once again, no one knows what will happen after the 3rd May 2020. There are 2 possible scenarios, either the lockdown will be lifted or it will be extended. In attempting to predict the course which the nation will take, we continue to ask the fundamental question: Testing and tracing, are we there yet? As at 28 April 2020, a total of 7 287 screening and diagnostic tests had been conducted, with 32 cases being confirmed as COVID-19 positive.
We remain concerned by reports from the medical sector raising the issue of limited testing kits and the challenges which patients in accessing COVID-19 tests. These considerations against a background of local transmission and the rise in positive cases, therefore bring into question the feasibility of mass testing on the ground around the country.
Remaining concerned that 31 days into the lock down, there has been no public unveiling of the comprehensive State resourcing of the COVID-19 national response plan;
- We reinforce our 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.
Critical Emerging Issues
1. Personal Protective Equipment
Noting reports from our networks that conducted a rapid site survey, we are concerned with the low amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in public health institutions in Bulawayo, Harare, Mutare, Gweru and Masvingo. It is our belief that this same pattern obtains in other communities within Provinces, and therefore speaks to a low distribution of PPE across the country. This negatively impacts on the safety and efficiency of frontline health workers and therefore calls Government to account to the procurement of PPE and its distribution.
2. Quality of information
Aware that the pandemic requires close cooperation between the State and the nation.
Understanding the anxiety and speculation caused by the malaria outbreak, and circumstances regards the handling of case 32;
Noting that it is important for public interest issues such as this one, to be addressed through full disclosure by Government;
- We believe that the outbreak of malaria requires the Nation to witness demonstrable steps by Government in responding and ensuring that all malaria cases access COVID-19 tests as a matter of priority. Furthermore, the Government must comprehensively communicate on this issue so as to allay any concerns that the nation may have.
3. Rise in Gender Based Violence cases
Reiterating the concerns pertaining to the rise of GBV during the lockdown;
Gravely concerned with growing reports of sexual abuse of girls in certain parts of Murehwa;
Noting with trepidation the lives of women and girls, having been put at risk during this time who unfortunately continue to rely on non-state actors whose operational functionality remains constrained.
- We therefore urge the expedition of the leadership of Government in protecting women and girls against violence from both private and public spaces.
- We further urge the expansion of access to services for survivors of violence, by designating such services as essential in the COVID-19 era.
4. Non-adherence to Social distancing
Deeply concerned by reports of non- observance of social distancing and lockdown in communities such as Shurugwi CBD, Goromonzi Ward 7, and Chivi.
Understanding that citizens are likely to suffer from lockdown fatigue;
However, remaining concerned that such actions may exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 in rural communities
- We continue to urge communities to observe social distancing and to comply with the lockdown measures.
- We urge Government, Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders to adopt stronger awareness measures and support community groups undertaking awareness campaigns to ensure the public is well equipped to understand the COVID-19 risks that they face and strengthen their ability to take protective measures.
- We remind citizens that we have now moved into a phase where we have recorded a number of COVID-19 community transmission, with 3 cases having been confirmed in Mhondoro. Therefore, more than ever, each individual must act with caution and minimize chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 further within the communities.
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 urgent strategies to curb further spread of COVID-19.
2. Easing of Lockdown Measures
Fully aware that Lockdown is a temporary measure 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 with the delays in announcing broad-based measures on the road ahead.
We remain concerned that the proposal to open schools – we counter propose the pushing of the academic calendar and provision for examination classes to be given primacy with a clear plan for decongestion of schools and sanitisation of all education facilities prior to reopening.
We reiterate that Government must place possible gradual easing of measures steps PRIOR to the end of the lockdown.
- Measures such as the mandatory 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)