Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 38 – WCoZ Covid-19 Situation Report

Today marks 38 Days into the lockdown. As at 5 May 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare has conducted a total of 14 821 screening and diagnostic tests, 34 cases being confirmed as COVID-19 positive. This represents 8 consecutive days where the number of people testing positive for COVID19 have remained unchanged.

We raise concern at the format of reporting that consolidates both the numbers for persons screened and the numbers of persons diagnostically tested. Which is non-progressive shift from the original reporting format. We remain wary of the actual number of persons actually getting diagnostically tested and formally reported.

We note that Parliament of Zimbabwe, during sitting yesterday, announced a further adjournment of business until 19 May 2020. We continue to call upon the August House to expedite the development and implementation of innovative and virtual strategies for resuming operations in the COVID-19 era.

Data costs and communications costs are not acceptable. Communities and our networks have raised distress calls, over the increase of data tariffs and costs by the mobile telecommunications service providers. The hikes come at a time when the larger population is impoverished, due to loss of its income earning capacity under COVID-19 and the lockdown. This creates challenges in access to information, especially during this global health emergency, when everyone is dependent upon virtual communication to access information and developments updates on COVID-19. It is trite to remind the Government that communication plays a critical role in economic development and resumption of the economy will remain fragile without addressing the phenomenal prices increases in communications costs.

Observing the price increases of the costs of goods and services across the country, we await the active engagement and action by Government that has on numerous occasions stated that it would take the necessary steps to address the rampant price increases.

Commending the general public, for adherence to wearing face-masks, and also applauding efforts by local retailers in enforcing this measure, by making it mandatory for every customer who enters super-markets. We are however gravely concerned with reports of customers exchanging masks and taking turns to go into supermarkets to purchase commodities. This behaviour has been mainly noted at St Mary’s OK Supermarket. We continue to call upon the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to issue formal national guidelines on mask use and reuse, effectiveness and disposal.

Emerging Issues

1. Public transport system

Noting the efforts by ZUPCO to bring in franchised commuter omnibuses in order to strengthen its capacity to meet the high demand of customers;

Further noting Government’s announcement authorising conventional buses with valid operating permits to also support in ferrying people and from work;

Recognising that this will go a long way in responding to the public outcry on transport challenges;

Reports from our grassroots networks pointing to challenges in accessing public transport and lack of capacity by ZUPCO to meet the high demand;

  • We emphasise the imperative need by enforcement officers to ensure the operators’ compliance with the safety measures and protocols on decontamination public transport and sanitisation.

2. Physical Distancing

We continue to note a general trend, throughout communities, indicating a relaxation in observing physical distancing, since the Nation’s transition into Level 2, particularly in the rural areas and markets.

Further noting that there has been more focus on the wearing of masks, than other COVID-19 preventative methods;

Concerned that failure to adequately observe social and physical distancing may erode all the gains recorded so far in the COVID-19 battle

  • We remind the general populace on the need to fortify their efforts in maintaining both mask wearing and physical distancing in every environment which may include work, public transport or supermarkets.

3. Suspension of Mandatory Testing for Employees

Noting Government’s announcement permitting companies opening under Level 2, to postpone testing of employees until test-kits are accessible for procurement;

Concerned with the growing level of such policy inconsistencies and the possible threat it poses to public confidence and trust in the Government’s capacity and preparedness to effectively respond to COVID-19;

Further noting, the concerns in the public discourse over the accuracy and safety of the Rapid Diagnostic Tests;

  • We request that Government provides a report on the companies and statistics of employees, if any, that have so far benefitted from Government’s testing.
  • We further continue to request the Ministry of Health and Childcare to release an official position in response to these legitimate concerns raised.
  • We further urge employees and businesses to continue observing other containment protocols, further to the RTDs.

4. Provision of Psychosocial Support

Noting with distress the levels of the trauma that personnel in the healthcare service sector are undergoing and the real concerns of operating without access to sufficient level of PPE.

Noting similarly, the trauma of persons screened for COVID19 and their loved one as there are tested, await and receive results.

We note that the current protocol do not address the need to provide counselling to health personnel nor is there any counselling for potential suspect COVID-19 cases and their families.

  • We call upon Government to ensure urgent provision of the counselling to both healthcare workers and persons screened and tested for COVID19.

We note the failure to address the chronic counselling need fuels stigma and negative social behaviours;

  • We call upon the government to deploy social workers and community case care workers to address heightened household and community level need for psychosocial support and strengthened social cohesion practises.
  • We urge an active review of the provision of mental health support

Outstanding Issues

1. Access to education and school’s reopening

We note that according to the official school calendar, schools would have opened on 3 May 2020, however we appreciate that the situation has been altered due to COVID-19,

  • We continue to call upon the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to expedite implementation strategies to ensure that pupils do not miss out on their learning. In addition, we emphasise that special attention should be dedicated to pupils in the rural areas, and other vulnerable sections, who stand at the risk of exclusion.

2. Food

Fully aware of the magnitude through which the lockdown has severely affected households, and individual’s earning capacities.

Deeply concerned with reports from our grassroots networks, on hunger and hardships in communities, particularly in Wedza South Ward 12, and Chivi Chiveso area;

Further understanding that women are part of the vulnerable section that has been seriously impoverished;

  • We remind Government, of section 77 of the Constitution, which guarantees every person the right to sufficient food, and places an obligation on the State to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.
  • Furthermore, we urge the Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare to expedite disbursement of food aid and grants to vulnerable communities in a transparent manner, without any political interference.
  • We call upon mobile money operators to remove transaction costs on the cash transfer program.

3. Water

Remaining concerned with the dire water situation currently obtaining throughout the country.

Particularly distressed with reports from our networks in Warren Park, ward 15, where a bucket of water was being sold for $15 zwl.

Noting that water is a universal human right, guaranteed by the Supreme law of the land; Aware that in April, the High Court delivered a ruling, ordering the adequate provision of water;

  • We continue to register our displeasure over non-compliance with the court ruling;
  • We reinforce our calls upon the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, and all local authorities in their respective districts, to ensure adequate provision water, through the implementation of short and long-term strategies.

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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