107 days of Covid-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 13 July, 2020, the total number of Covid-19 cases had increased to 1,034 after 49 new cases were recorded, 21 of which are local transmissions.
Today Government resolved enforcement of measures to tighten the lockdown, amidst the sharp increase in Covid-19 statistics. The measures include the indefinite deferment of school’s re-opening, introduction of localised lockdowns in hotspot areas. The announcement tailors with global actions as we note that around the world, several cities and countries are going back into stricter lockdowns or undertaking stricter Anti-Covid-19 measures as their cases of Covid-19 rise. In the context of Zimbabwe whose health sector is incredibly fragile and presently open to multiple vulnerabilities, we commend the recognition by the Government to reconsider the existing measures to address the spread of Covid-19, to protect their health sector and safeguard the capacity to save lives.
We commend this move as strategic towards curbing the spread of the virus. We however query Government’s standpoint on the re-opening of the Tourism sector amidst the current spikes of Covid-19 cases;
- We call upon the Government to give specific details on the implications of a localised lockdown to avoid doubt and to ensure the abundance of caution.
- We commend the deferment of the resumption of schools and the penalisation of the opening of private schools.
- We commend the halting of the further reopening of the economy. We however await particular sector implications in this regard.
We further commend the briefing by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services on Covid-19 in Zimbabwe as the nation Zimbabwe surpasses the 1000 cases mark. We further note the messaging to the public which indeed is suffering from a lockdown fatigue after 106 days of lockdown that vigilance must be upheld. We particularly commend the policy level decision making to focus on the following 4 areas:
- The mapping and testing of areas around clusters of cases.
- A need to increase community surveillance.
- The erection of temporary structures at Ports of Entry to house the rising number of returnees into the country.
- The strengthening of cross border security checks.
We remain vigilant on the quality of implementation of these decisions in the operations and administration of the government institutions and process as these are key areas wherein the rights of women and citizens fall through the cracks.
Critical Emerging Issues
Non-adherence to lockdown restrictions and containment measures
We continue to note a general trend, throughout communities, businesses and public spaces, indicating a relaxation in observing social distancing, use of face masks and sanitizers. We remain insistent on safety measures in supermarket queues and public transport transit points as social distancing is not observed and mask wearing is weak.
Gravely concerned with the continuing spike of Covid-19 cases and concerned that failure to adequately observe social and physical distancing may erode all the gains recorded so far in the Covid-19 battle.
In the context of the potential airborne nature of the virus, particularly in closed, confined spaces, adherence to proper mask-wearing, sanitization of hands and physical distancing are critical.
- We therefore commend Government on the resolution to tighten lockdown measures especially in public spaces.
- We call upon the clarification of the measures in regards to religious services and cultural events.
- We emphasize that tightening of lockdown should not and cannot be implemented by restricting citizens’ movement only, but by ensuring compliance by the public transport sector, strict adherence to sanitization and disinfection of public spaces by businesses.
- We continue to recommend the strengthening of both awareness and enforcement of physical distancing measures in public spaces which remain critical spaces for the potential spread of the Covid-19.
- We remind the general populace of the need to fortify their efforts in maintaining both social and physical distancing, in every environment, which may include work, public transport or supermarkets.
Mass community testing and tracing
Noting that yesterday alone, the country recorded 25 cases of local transmission, we recognize the urgent need to intensify community mass testing and contact tracing. In the absence of mass community testing and public accounting for local transmission case-tracing, we continue to raise queries on the appropriate reflection of the Covid-19 pandemic prevalence in Zimbabwe. Further, whilst we acknowledge the fact that the testing prioritisation has been directed to mandatory quarantine and isolation centres, we remain deeply distressed and concerned at limited testing to communities broadly;
- We reinforce our call for an advanced testing strategy which ensures community mass testing and also in the Public sector.
- We further urge Government to give a long outstanding report on the tracing of contacts of all the local transmission cases thus far and to appropriately inform the applicable communities. This includes an update on the tracing progress of the Beitbridge and Plumtree Prisons.
Access to education for the girl child
The Global Report by UNICEF on the projection that globally 10 million children may fail to resume their education after lockdowns, we call upon Government to accordingly invest in education and learning.
We consequently note the further indefinite deferment of schools’ re-opening and accordingly continue to bring to the fore, the plight of the girl child. Aware that the girl child is currently spending more time at home than in school, raising concerns regarding the extension of undue burden of unpaid care-work, illegal child labour, exploitation and abuse in the form of child marriages;
We remain distressed regarding the weak mechanisms to prevent the entrenchment of unequal opportunities amongst female and male pupils, thereby aggravating already existing inequalities. Therefore, over and above the online lessons’ initiative,
- We recommend setting in place monitoring and evaluation strategies to measure the success and practicability of this intervention.
- We reiterate our recommendation for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to continuously collect dis-aggregated data and update the Nation on pupils’ access and attendance to the radio lessons.
- We urge that the data must be gender dis-aggregated, in order to ensure that girls attend the lessons, and are not consumed with the burden of unpaid care-work, within the household.
Persons living and working on the streets
We note the update of the Covid-19 taskforce pertaining to vulnerable children and adults living and working on the streets that have been placed in halfway homes. However we remain concerned by the limited report in this regard.
- We call for a full public report on the status of the persons living and working on the streets, their housing and their reunification processes and measures to ensure that there are sufficiently able to access safeguarding mechanisms against Covid-19.
We note the process of reunifications of vulnerable persons with their families. We remain concerned however about the low numbers (29) reported regarding persons receiving direct support of only 29 adults in Harare Province, 13 Adults in Midlands Province and 6 children in Manicaland Province.
We highlight that where Zimbabwe’s population of homeless persons is at 848 per every 10,000 persons, the above numbers are clearly inadequately addressed in the update.
- We call for a fuller intervention to the multitudes of vulnerable persons who have received support since the inception of the lockdown.
- We call for the announcement of mechanisms to protect those living and working on the streets against the spread of the virus.
Provision of adequate PPE for health workers
We continue to raise alarm over the growing statistics on health workers testing positive to Covid-19, particularly amidst reports of PPE shortages and exposure of health personnel to the virus. We reiterate the urgent need to support and safeguard the well-being of health workers.
We note with concern that health staffers in some of the country’s largest public hospital (Parirenyatwa, Mpilo and UBH Hospitals) have tested positive.
We remain alarmed at the fact that over 40 nurses at the Mpilo and UBH hospitals have tested positive for Covid-19 and that approximately 300 health personnel are placed on mandatory self-isolation.
- We therefore continue to make clarion calls upon Government to fulfil the constitutionally protected right to health for health workers by ensuring that they are not negligently exposed to Covid-19.
- We reiterate our recommendations on preventative measures such as training of health workers on handling Covid-19 patients.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe