81 days into the lockdown, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that as at the 18th of June 2020, the number of COVID-19 positive cases had increased to 463 cases. The number of recovered patients currently stands at 63. Noting that of these 63 new cases, 42 are from returnees while 20 are from local transmission. According to the Ministry’s report, the source of infection for 11 local cases is currently unknown, and therefore under investigations.
The numbers in the Ministry of Health and Child Care COVID-19 reports are startling and need to be a point of change in practise in the strategy to address COVID-19 in Zimbabwe. We note with alarm the growing number of cases in Zimbabwe particularly the increase in today’s recorded jump of 63 cases. We remain concerned that the practical support to secure the health of the returning residents population as they return home and indeed in the quarantine centres;
- We call for adherence to physical distancing in the transportation mechanisms of the returning residents as they travel back home on Government supported logistics.
- We call upon the mandatory PCR testing of retuning residents on Day Zero prior to entering mandatory quarantine and isolation centres.
We note with concern that there are 20 Local transmission cases and we note that of these 20, 11 cases are from persons who did not have contact with any returning residents;
- We once against reiterate the strengthening of tracing teams supporting the local testing strategy to ensure a proactive rather than a reactive COVID-19 strategy.
It is against this background we continue to remain alarmed at measures to reopen schools, one of the most fragile spaces in our communities, whilst cases of COVID continue to rapidly escalate both within Zimbabwe and in surrounding countries and the persons testing positive continue to be housed in centres of learning;
- We call upon Government to exercise an abundance of caution and slow down on the program to reopen schools even during the phased approach that is being undertaken.
We note that the Government has reported the availability of drugs that were identified in the treatment of COVID-19, including but not limited to paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine (locally produced and Alpha Interferon (sourced from Cuba) as part of the drugs distribution to provincial and central hospitals.
- We call upon the Government to make direct reference to the WHO Clinical guidelines published on the 17th of June 2020 which speak directly to the usage and efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine which is no longer recommended.
We note the announcement that the drug stocks of the nation in response to COVID19 readiness now include 20 million paracetamol tablets, 20 000 paracetamol syrup, 755 000 Vitamin C and 420 000 chloroquine tablets.
Critical Emerging Issues
Deteriorating Health System
We note with grave concern, the deteriorating health system, particularly with heath workers having withdrawn their services citing poor working conditions.
Appreciating the indispensable role which health workers play on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle, and the negative impact such withdrawal will pose on the health delivery system;
- We therefore recommend engagement by the authorities and implementation of comprehensive strategies that ensure strengthening of the health delivery system.
Access to Water and Sanitation
We remain concerned at the inability of communities to access adequate water and sanitation during a global pandemic that requires increased levels of hygiene and in particular clean and safer portable water.
We highlight the reported outbreak of diarrhoea cases in Bulawayo which has seen over 60 patients admitted to Mpilo Hospital since the 6th of June 2020, the death of 5 persons and 12 admissions on Tuesday alone.
We raise concerns regarding the impact of the water rationing system in Bulawayo which has placed communities, women and children under phenomenal strain, as they seek to assess water on a daily basis on a system where water only comes once a week.
We note with concern the plight of women and children in Iminyela, Magwegwe, and Cowdray Part who have faced non-safe water over the past week and are reporting increased cases of diarrhoea.
We highlight the challenges faced by the communities of Redcliff and Kwekwe due to the non-functionality of the 4 out of 9 pumps in the country’s second largest water treatment facility after Morton Jeffery Water Works in Harare;
- We reiterate our demand for a comprehensive national approach and plan to address the chronic and persistent shortages of water in Zimbabwe’s communities
- We call upon increased expedition of operational and administrative responsiveness to communities in crisis not lonely by the constrained Local Authorities but by central government and its application national institutions to ensure that citizens are able to access water which is not only a right but also a central feature to the right to life.
Accountability and Transparency in Distribution to Covid-19 Supplies
We commend the update to the National Taskforce by the Ministry of Health and Child Care on the distribution of COVID-19 essential to all the Provincial and district medical centres;
We note that the distribution of personal protective equipment including was not limited to was not limited to face masks, aprons, theatre gowns;
We note further the distribution of Infrared thermometers and knapsack sprayers.
- We continue to call for the publication for the distribution matrix to ensure that the highest standards of good governance, accountability and transparency.
Indeed such publication will assure communities, and the public at large the level of readiness that the health sector to be ready to handle potential incoming cases of positive COVID-19 cases.
Enforcement of lockdown measures
Noting the enhanced security systems and increased presence of security forces throughout the country, we emphasize the fundamental need for respect of human rights. We reiterate that this move should not be used as a vehicle of abuse of human rights during enforcement. We continue to draw attention to section 86 of the Constitution, which states that no law or person may limit or violate the following rights, under any circumstances, whatsoever;
- The right to human dignity.
- The right not to be tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading, treatment or punishment.
- The right to life.
We therefore urge security agents to uphold and respect citizens’ rights as they enforce the lockdown.
Testing Kit Shortages
Concerned with recurring incidents of shortages in testing at mandatory quarantine centres. Noting that such shortages have resulted in some returnees being held in quarantine for longer periods than scheduled. Furthermore, understanding from various reports that the living conditions at quarantine facilities, are deplorable;
- We reinforce recommendations on ensuring prioritisation of the needs and freedoms of persons held in quarantine, so as to avoid over-detention of citizens within quarantine facilities.
- We await an update from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, in respect of test-kit availability in the country, and the capacity of the Ministry to expedite testing and completion of backlog cases.
Restrictions in movement by the security agents
Government has announced that the tightening of roadblocks leading into the cities and town centres was part of the law enforcement measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
We continue to note that there is indeed a growing trend on the distortion of the definition of essential service through the methods of enforcement wherein persons who are stated in the regulations as essential service continue to be harassed by enforcement officers at roadblocks;
- We reiterate our calls for an official position on movement, travel permits and essential services, as we have noted growing inconsistences throughout the past few weeks.
- We reinforce our calls upon the enforcing agents to exercise restraint and avoid unleashing terror and violence upon communities, under the guise of enforcing lockdown.
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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)