36 Days into the lockdown with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare updating the nation that as at 3 May 2020, a total of 11 647 screening and diagnostic tests had been performed, with 34 confirmed as COVID-19 positive. We note the combination of the total numbers of both screening and diagnostics tests and call upon the Government to revert back to their prior position of clearly articulating the total of screening separately from the number of diagnostics test run.
Commending the citizens’ general compliance with the law, to wear face masks in the public. Our networks reports indicate that communities, today made concerted efforts in ensuring adherence with this specific section of the law, as generally witnessed in Murehwa, Chitungwiza, Gwanda, Marondera and Harare Central Business District.
Regarding resumption of operation and access to testing. There were two realities reflected in the communities across the country. Several business remained closed and indicated inability to access testing services as a delay to resumption of operations. On the other hand several business opened and resumed operation and operators were also not wearing face masks. This raises the questions of businesses risked opening while having not yet actually tested employees. We raise the concern that employees may fail to report their employers in light of the fact that they wish to save their jobs and income.
We note that the Parliament of Zimbabwe has announced that it will be sitting tomorrow, 5th May 2020, for the sake of formally adjourning to another date. We commend Parliament for making efforts to comply with social distancing by downsizing on the number of Parliamentarians to sit in this particular session. We await the announcement of additional strategies and mechanisms to make Parliament accessible at this time.
We remain concerned regarding the publication and implementation of the easing of lockdown in mining and manufacturing communities.
Critical Emerging Issues
1. Public Transport Challenges
Noting the reports from our grassroots networks pointing to challenges in accessing public transport and lack of capacity by ZUPCO to meet the high demand;
Understanding that as the per the law, ZUPCO is the only designated mode of public transport at the moment,
Concerned further with reports showing disregarding of social distancing by members of the public boarding the buses;
- We warn that if proper mitigatory measures are not established to ensure social distancing in addition to decontamination and use of masks, the public transport system will be our undoing in this COVID-19 battle.
- We call upon the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and also the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to strengthen the public transport system in order to cater for the high demand by the public.
2. Access to Testing and Resumptions of operations
We note reports indicating the failure to resume operations by many businesses today, due to failure to access COVID-19 rapid response diagnostic tests.
We also note the release of Guidelines on mandatory testing of employees, which encourages companies to expedite the testing process by procuring COVID-19 test-kits for themselves;
Gravely concerned that government has shifted the responsibility to access testing on individual institutions and citizens through we are facing a public health crisis which requires government to take the lead.
Distressed with reports indicating that the cost of a single test-kit, is exorbitantly pegged averagely at $25 USD by private health institutions. This high cost is not affordable to most institutions and does not address the financial and resource inequalities between differing types of institutions. Essentially meaning the resumption of operations will be guided whether or not an institution has enough resources to do so yet those institutions are already in financial distress.
To those institutions directed to secure public sector testing, the operational modalities of actually getting institutions whilst publicized, we remain concerned on delays on accessing public testing
This brings to the fore, discussions on Government’s capacity, or its lack thereof, to speedily service and perform tests on companies who may opt to receive from Government. Furthermore, it is not clear how often these tests are to be conducted on each employee, given the highly contagious nature of COVID-19. The question therefore is, how feasible is our policy stance on testing?
This position brings out, not only uncertainty in the law, but also equality gaps within our system.
- We therefore urge Government to service its people and ensure that testing services are easily accessible to all businesses.
1. Use of masks
Applauding concerted efforts by the public in producing home-made masks, to ensure compliance with the law,
We remain concerned with reports from our networks indicating lack of knowledge on the proper handling of masks,
We note confusion with drivers of private cars, alone, who drive without masks under the assumption that there are not falling foul of the regulations and are safe.
- We therefore recommend public awareness is a critical step in addressing this challenge, and encourage stakeholders and the media to play their part in disseminating information on proper handling of masks.
- Further, we continue to call upon the Ministry of Health and Child Care to issue detailed guidelines on the acceptable types of masks, so as to provide certainty to both the communities and enforcement officers.
- We call upon the ministry to give specific guidelines to wearing of masks to drivers who are alone in vehicles to reduce the confusion in the public domain.
2. Transparency on COVID-19 Response
We reiterate our position on the quality of information and communication form government regarding COVID19. We raise the position that inadequate and discrepancies in information provided by the state erodes the integrity of the data and information provided by government and weakens the trust between citizen and the state In particular we call for transparency on the;
- Testing and Tracing and reporting system
- Readiness levels of the non-metropolitan centres
- Upgrades of the medical facilities across the country
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)