ZIMBABWE LOCKDOWN: DAY 55 – WCoZ Covid-19 Situation Report

55 Days into the lockdown, and the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that as at 22 May 2020, cumulatively a total of 19 918 rapid screening tests and 15 194 PCR diagnostic tests had been conducted. 5 new cases tested positive on 22 May 2020. The total number of positive cases therefore stands at 56.

Noting the alarming rate at which the statistics are rising and the risk of further spread, we are gravely concerned with the weaknesses of the present lockdown, which increasingly, has no distinction to the return of everyday normal life. Whilst fully cognisant of the need to resume operations in various sectors, to support the economy, as we fight COVID-19, the reality is that the informal sector has simply been pushed underground at the cost for the vulnerable households, yet the rest of the economy is being actively supported to be back on track.

Furthermore, the consequential effect is that undue hardship is being placed on communities in regards to public transport whose ban increasingly appears to favour a state monopoly than address the measures critical to fighting COVID-19. The absence of operational readiness by Government to address the challenges in the public transport system continue to place commuting masses undue hardships and risk of exposure to COVID-19. The resultant return of the “mshika-shika” unregistered private taxis servicing routes in Masvingo, Chivhu, Harare, Gweru, Guruve, Bulawayo therefore comes as no surprise. Unfortunately, this scenario presents more challenges to the detriment of commuting citizens who are forced to use this transport medium which does not observe safety protocols such as sanitization and physical distancing.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Access to testing

Growing reports have been made pointing to the shortages of COVID-19 testing kits. This has been further worsened by claims revealing that persons in mandatory quarantine, particularly at Belvedere Teachers College are being asked to cater for testing costs, at the average cost of $65.
Aware that the COVID-19 testing remains primarily the duty of the Government to provide, and not a burden that citizens are meant to bear;

• We urge accountability in respect of the donations and procurements that were made to bolster the Government’s capacity to conduct nation-wide mass testing.
• We await the release of Government’s plan and strategy to address the challenges in accessing tests. This is imperative, especially as the nation prepares itself, at the insistence of Government, to open centres of learning in the next 4 weeks.
• We call upon government to focus and urgently prioritise the procurement and provisioning of critical equipment and materials to address COVID-19 response

2. Demolition of Markets sites and structures

We note various reports on the demolition of informal sector structures throughout the country. The latest report is from Chipinge, where our networks have reported that the Chipinge Town Council has given notice to demolish, on 26 May, structures such as tuckshops and canteens.
Appreciating that this move will worsen the dire economic situation in communities, by placing undue hardships on most households who rely on the informal sector;

• We urge the Government, the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, and also local authorities to be more sensitive to the needs of the communities, especially during these difficult times of the lockdown.
• We remind the government to undertake wide-spread consultations with existing and active bodies within the sector when considering demolitions and restructuring of markets which have a direct bearing on the multitudes of household livelihoods of impoverished communities.

3. Food shortages and diminishing food aid programs

We continue to record food shortages around the country, with most reports showing dwindling of food aid programmes by Government. Reports from Kariba and Hwange communities, indicate that the situation on food continues to deteriorate as communities can no longer afford to buy basic commodities such as cooking oil and mealie meal. In other areas, stock on basic commodities is also diminishing particularly in Makonde, where reports show that communities are not only queuing for mealie meal, but for sugar as well.

• We continue to 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 continue to 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.

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 COVID-19 Zimbabwe response.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbawbe (WCoZ)

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