To date, over 6,441,152 COVID-19 infections have been confirmed to the WHO, with the number of deaths globally currently standing at over 380,265. Zimbabwe has recorded a total of 222 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a total of 4 deaths and 29 recoveries as at 02 June 2020. The cumulative number of tests to date stand at 49 603 (29 951 RDT and 20 012 PCR) (MOHCC Corona Virus (COVID-19) Update: 04 June 2020). ZADHR publishes this brief as part of its continuous audit of the COVID19 response in Zimbabwe and to provide recommendations to the government and health officials. Following our previous report on the 18th of May 2020 we produce this issue following a recent spike in cases of COVID- 19 mainly arising from quarantine centres.
Over the past 2 weeks ZADHR has received reports of shortages of screening and test kits at quarantine centres in Harare, Gweru, Chinhoyi and Victoria Falls and in some cases returnees being asked to pay for testing costs ranging between USD25.00 to USD65.00 per test. This sad scenario is further compounded by the poor state of the quarantine facilities whose standards fall far below the WHO minimum standards. ZADHR strongly suspects that the recent spike in cases in quarantine centres is a result of the poor living conditions at the quarantine facilities. Quarantine facilities at Girls High School, in Gweru, Chinhoyi and Victoria Falls have been reported as: Sharing of dormitories and sleeping close to each other in violation of the social and physical distancing, exposing the returnees to infection; Sharing of ablution facilities which are dirty and in a state of disrepair; Lack of regular facilities disinfection contrary to the COVID-19 guidelines and the President’s pronouncements and no sanitisers are being provided to the occupants, posing a serious health risk; Utensils are not being washed with soap and are inadequate. Returnees particularly women are reported to be taking turns to reuse the same plates, cups, spoons and other utensils; There absence of running water forcing the returnees to fetching water in buckets using this to flush toilets, bath and drink; Inhibited access to medication for people with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes at the Girls High School Quarantine.
ZADHR is concerned about reports that about 150 returnees were released from a Gweru facility four days ahead of schedule on the 24th of May 2020, after returnees threatened to protest against poor living conditions.
Testing and Screening
ZADHR is worried about delayed testing of returnees on arrival at quarantine facilities. ZADHR received reports that the Girls High Quarantine Centre where a group of about 96 returnees including pregnant women and an infant who were quarantined Harare Polytechnic College on the 10th of May 2020 and later moved to Girls High School in Harare for further quarantining, upon arrival at Harare Polytechnic College were not tested despite some individuals clearly exhibiting flue-like symptoms. The returnees were also not tested upon arrival at Girls High School until Sunday the 24th of May 2020, when they were finally tested. When returnees were finally tested on the 24th of May 2020 most of them were not exhibiting signs or symptoms of illness. Results returned 4 days later on the 28th of May 2020 at least 35 of the returnees had tested positive to COVID-19 and were to Wilkins Hospital. Chinhoyi quarantine facility has also reported the absence of testing
Personal Protective Equipment
Despite the government having been compelled by the High Court of Zimbabwe on the 14th of April 2020 to provide PPE to all frontline health professionals officers working at quarantine facilities through the country remain with inadequate personal protective equipment. This exposes the health professionals to infection. We urge the Ministry of Health and Child Care to prioritise health workers in these facilities as the quarantine facilities have become the new hotspots for COVID-19 in Zimbabwe.
Security of Facilities
ZADHR has received and also noted reports of returnees escaping from the quarantine facilities. 19 returnees were reported to have escaped from Mkoba Teachers College quarantine (Newsday,29 May 2020). We urge the government to improve the conditions of services through making them humane and habitable. ZADHR believes this will go a long way in enhancing adherence to guidelines by returnees.
High Court Compels Ministry of Health and Child Care to Improve Quarantine Facilities
In view of the above, ZADHR represented by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) filed an urgent chamber application with the High Court of Zimbabwe on the 1st of June 2020, and on the 3rd of June 2020 the High Court made a ruling compelling the government through the Ministry of Health and Child Care to launch a comprehensive investigation as to the cause of the spike in COVID-19 positive cases at the Girls High School quarantine facility and also that the Ministry “takes all necessary measures to fully comply with the SIs 77/2020 and 83/2020 as amended by doing the following: Ensuring that social and physical distancing is maintained in all quarantine centres; Quarantine facilities have continuous running water at all times, and functional, adequate ablution and bathing facilities; Occupants of the quarantine centres are provided with hand sanitisers and soaps at all times; Quarantine centres are regularly disinfected with approved disinfectants; and Ensuring the screening and testing of returnees on the 21-day mandatory quarantine are subjected to testing on days 1, 8 and 21”.
Transparency and Accountability in Acquisition of COVID-19 Equipment and Consumables
ZADHR has noted the acquisition, at ballooned costs, of COVID-19 related equipment and consumables by the government of Zimbabwe. The recent report that government extend a one million USD tender to Drax International without going to tender is a cause for concern. We urge the Ministry to adhere to state procurement regulations to enhance public trust and confidence in an environment where citizens are concerned with individuals profiteering from the crisis through abuse of office.
ZADHR Donates PPE to the Gweru District Covid-19 Taskforce
Following reports of shortages of PPE for frontline health workers in the Gweru District, ZADHR in partnership with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) on the 29th of May 2020 donated a consignment of PPE and other COVID-19 related consumable to the district taskforce. The donation included 300 surgical gowns, 300 sachets of hand sanitisers, 300 shoe covers, 300 theatre caps, 300 disposable aprons, 300 masks, 300 loves and 10 thermometers. We hope, if used properly, the donation will go a long way in enhancing the safety of frontline health workers in Gweru districts and in enhancing access to care for patients in Gweru district.
Source: Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR)