70 days into the lockdown, the Ministry of Health and Childcare reported that as at the 6th of June 2020, the number of COVID-19 positive cases had increased to 277. The 70th day of the Lockdown marks a full week since the period in which the government was due to publicly review the indefinite lockdown . Sadly, the review has not been done and there is still no indication from government on when the review is to be done. We remain concerned regarding the failure to address the public on this critical matter which had literally rearranged our society.
Over 2 months since the inception of the lockdown, and quite a number of critical issues remain unaddressed. We note that Government is yet to publicize a report on the status of preparedness of Prisons and detention centres in responding to the pandemic. In addition, no information has been published regrading special measures for persons living disabilities. Moreover, the Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare is yet to fully roll out social protection programs, to alleviate economic shocks on vulnerable households. Lastly, a month after the gazetting of the regulations on mandatory testing of employees, Government is yet to publicise statistics on cumulative tests conducted in both the public and the private sectors.
Critical Emerging Issues
1. Testing in communities
Statistics on tests conducted by the Ministry of Health and Childcare, indicate major focus on the returnees and points of entry. While we appreciate that this move has gone a long way in ensuring early detection of cases, we raise concern over what may seem as an abandonment of community mass tests. There is a danger that we may be sitting on a time-bomb which will explode when we least expect it;
- We recommend therefore, balancing of tests to ensure all parts of the Zimbabwean society are covered regards to early detection of COVID-19 cases.
- We therefore call for an advanced test strategy which ensures community mass testing and also in the Public sector.
2. Social distancing
Reports from our networks continue to reveal non-compliance with social distancing, particularly due to church gatherings and funerals.
Measures to flatten the curve include not only mandatory mask wearing but respect and observance of social and physical distancing practises.
These practises are essential particularly as types of masks, usage of masks and disposal of masks practises weaken the efficacy of relying purely on masks for reducing the spread of the disease within the public population;
- We recommend the need for reiteration of the policy position of church and traditional gatherings supported by tangible enforcement of the same.
- We recommend active enforcement of social and physical distancing practices in supermarkets, food markets, transport hubs and health centres.
3. Report on the vulnerable namely, detainees and prisons populations
We continue to note that we are yet to receive a publicized report on the protection of vulnerable populations such as refugee camps and prison population;
Further aware that on a daily basis there are new entrants who are sent to remand prison from the outside world, where they may have been exposed to the virus and remain asymptomatic;
Aware that most of our detention facilities and refugee camps may not be capacitated enough and that social distancing rules may be difficult to enforce. Further aware that Beitbridge and Plumtree Prisons already recorded COVID-19 cases,
- We buttress our calls upon Government to urgently publicize and implement a comprehensive crisis plan to cater for the rights, needs and safety of detainees in the COVID-19 era. Paying particular attention to vulnerable detainees such as juveniles, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions.
4. Safety of children and child justice
Noting that children continue to spend more time at home than originally anticipated, due to the indefinite lockdown, and alive to the increased threat to the safety of children as they may be exposed to paedophiles, brutal beatings and child labour;
Concerned by the strain that households are facing by giving on going care to children with limited support of recreational and community centres that support care work in communities;
Further concerned by the limited tools within households to adequately support children’s developmental needs;
We continue to highlight the increases incidents and cases of child abuse and exploitation in the home.
We continue to call upon Government and Civil Society Organisations to respond to such risks by;
- Ensuring that helplines for children remain fully functional .
- Prioritising funding shelters and other places of safety for survivors.
- Expanding critical services for children and ensuring accessibility.
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)