65 days into the lockdown, and the number of COVID-19 positive cases continue to soar. On 2 June 2020, 3 new cases were recorded, bringing the total number to 206. It has been reported that of these 2 cases, are from returnees, while 1 case is a local transmission case.
We reiterate that the inconsistencies arising from the daily tally of reported cases challenge the accuracy and confidence of the public in the Government daily update reports. The trust of the public is further eroded, by the failure of the Government to meet the deadline, to announce publicly, the Review of the Level 2 extension, by Sunday the 31st of May 2020. The arising speculation is unnecessary, creates undue uncertainty amongst citizens and can only be addressed, by Government, being proactive, transparent and accountable at the highest standards of good governance practice during a global pandemic.
We continue to witness the volatile political atmosphere obtaining in the country, particularly in Harare. Today most reports were recorded of citizens who were barred from entering the Central Business District by the Security agents. This was experienced in most parts of Harare, despite most of the travellers being in possession of travel permits. Questions have been asked as to whether anything has changed under Level 2. Particularly, has the definition for “Essential services” changed? Such policy inconsistencies and incoherence present challenges for the citizenry.
Yesterday, distressing news were received indicating that Prisons in Plumtree and Beitbridge, had recorded cases of COVID-19 amongst inmates and prison officers. This exposes the authorities, over its lack of preparedness regards to prisons ad refugee camps. We warned on numerous occasions, against this and demanded publicization of the Prisons Report on its state of preparedness and readiness to address COVID-19 in places of detention. Over 2 months ago, since the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Zimbabwe, Government is yet to produce that report, and COVID-19 has arrived in our prisons were hundreds, if not thousands of inmates are being currently being detained.
We are especially concerned by the stigmatisation of person entering mandatory isolation and quarantine centres. Concerned particularly by the position of Government that persons entering mandatory quarantine centres are tested prior entry and are found positive for COVID 19 and are accordingly separated. In light of numerous reports, from persons exiting the quarantine centres, is it clear that the conditions in quarantine centres and the process of managing persons into quarantine facilities, challenge the consistency and announced standards and protocols of these centres. The management of mandatory quarantine centres and their applicable protocols require urgent oversight to be exercised by the Parliament of Zimbabwe and the constitutional Chapter 12 institutions, to ensure that the highest adherence to WHO protocols is de facto present and that the rights of returnees are not undermined.
Critical Emerging Issues
1. Schools re-opening for the exam classes only
Government today has made the announcement that exam classes are now re-opening, and that measures will be put in place for social distancing, limiting class sizes, ensuring use of face masks and hand-sanitizers.
While we appreciate these measures, we also point out that they are not sufficient to curb the spread of COVID-19 amongst pupils and teachers.
We note that the public have been using different types of facemasks, most of which are not recommended for use for COVID-19 prevention.
- Government must provide all learners and their teachers with appropriate face-masks and other PPE at Government cost.
The position regarding access to testing, at Government costs, for all teachers and learners to be tested prior to commencement of lessons and exams is still outstanding.
Measures for Boarding schools regarding what mechanisms to protect against the spread of COVID-19 in schooling communities including means to ensure social distancing of learners in their day to day lives are still outstanding.
- Government guidelines on these practical measures must be published in advance and prior to the resumption of exam classes.
Preventative measures put in place to ensure that the staff and other day-scholars, from the outside the schooling environment, do not expose closed schooling communities to the virus are not clear.
- Government must address the applicable, prevention, early detection measures and early warning systems to address these scenarios urgently.
2. ZUPCO sole transport provider
We further note that Government has announced that ZUPCO shall continue to be the sole transport provider for the public. Government further announced that in trying to meet the high demand by travellers, a ZUPCO bus may now carry more passengers than previously allowed.
Expanding the number of persons in ZUPCO buses permissible in one trip, simply implies overcrowding and non-observance of both physical and social distancing by a State functionary, which indicates the state is breaching its own regulations on enforcement of COVID-19 measures.
We note that such a pronouncement defies logic, especially when the nation is currently experiencing an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases;
- We urge Government to address the public transport crisis comprehensively with the lives of citizens being the priority.
1. Delay in implementing social protection measures
We note that Government today reiterated that it will implement its social protection program, which will see each vulnerable household earning ZWL$200 (which was due to be increased to ZWL$300).
It is gravely disappointing to note the lack urgency by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, as they have been singing the same song for over 3 weeks now, while on the other hand the cost of living continues to soar high due to inflation.
Whilst we note the resumption of the subsidised mealie meal program, we note with concern its disruption of over three week and remain concerned no measures to stop unethical business practices regarding the mealie meal distribution have been indicated.
The present status of disbursement to less than 200 000 beneficiaries is in contrast to the commitment which ought to have catered for over 1mmillion beneficiaries.
This has raised a general sense of discontent and disgruntlement by the communities over the delays in the implementation of social protection measures by Government;
- We therefore call upon the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to expedite the implementation of social protection programs to alleviate economic shocks upon vulnerable households.
- We further call the State to order, particularly on its duty to ensure that citizens enjoy the progressive realisation of their right to food and water.
- We urge the development of operational modalities to ensure subsidized mealie meal enters the retail sector and reaches intended communities in a transparent and accountable manner.
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)