56 Days into the lockdown, and the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that as at 23 May 2020, cumulatively a total of 21 202 rapid screening tests and 15 336 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.
We note with concern, the increasing inconsistencies and irregularities through which the Ministry of Health and Child Care is providing demographic details of the COVID-19 cases to the public. Whilst appreciating the change in format by the Ministry in its daily reports, however, this increasingly has become irregular and inconsistent which raises concerns on the public data available to address the necessity for the public to be furnished with correct and accurate information so as to avoid speculation in the public domain.
On another note, lately we have noted an increase in reports from our networks indicating night operations of beer halls, drinking spots and evening recreational spaces in both rural and urban communities. Particularly in areas such as Hopley, Goromonzi and Murehwa.
We therefore remain concerned with the effectiveness, (or lack thereof) of the limited public infection control measures in public spaces, particularly as enforcement of the lockdown is increasingly becoming piecemeal.
Critical Emerging Issues
1. Mandatory Quarantine Centres
Reports reveal that the town of Norton has recorded its first case of COVID-19, and the circumstances surrounding this are indeed shocking. According to the reports, the patient who travelled from Cape Town was placed under mandatory quarantine, tested for COVID-19, but was however released before the test results came out. We therefore question, the purpose of mandatory quarantine, if persons are released, before it has been determined whether or not they are COVID- free. This is not the only reported incident which points to the deficiencies within the quarantine facilities.
In the past weeks, complaints have also been made concerning sanitization and overcrowding within certain facilities. The centres, in themselves have become hotspots for infections, thus posing risks for quarantined persons. The above factors raise serious questions on the lack of preparedness by Government to detect cases and curb spreading of the disease.
- We therefore urge the publicization of mandatory institutional guidelines for returnees so that we may be informed of the standard operating procedures within these facilities.
2. The Lockdown of the informal sector
The recurring question that has been asked of late throughout our networks is: Is there a lockdown in Zimbabwe? This question has been driven by activities around the country which seem to suggest that the Nation has moved out of lockdown.
This includes the recent move by Government to partially lift the ban on sporting activities. These selective reprieves, if anything would question the authenticity of the continued lockdown by Government.
Deeply disturbed that in concrete terms it increasingly appears that the lockdown extension is now only targeted at punishing the informal sector, as they seem to be the ones under siege in terms of Level 2 extension, particularly as we note that women constitute about 60% of the informal sector in Zimbabwe.
- We continue to urge re-visitation of the Level 2 strategy and applicable targets to ensure that it does not aggravate the already existing inequality gaps.
- We urge Government to take into account specific needs of the populations as it develops strategic measures to curb spread of the disease.
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 continue 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 Zimbabwe (WCoZ)