111 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 18 July, 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 1,478 after 58 new cases tested positive, of which 21 are local transmissions. We sadly note the death, in hospital, of a 36 year old woman in Bulawayo today. We send prayers and words of comfort to her family and loved ones. Zimbabwe now has a reported death toll of 25 and 1014 active cases.
We highlight the weakened vigilance in retail supermarket stores including some large scale national retailers, across the country in regards to COVID-19 measures in-stores. Despite having made considerable efforts in the beginning of the opening of stores, the measures adopted in the retail sector, in-store, have weakened significantly over the past weeks. In particular we draw attention to the;
- Lack of floor markers or marking which have become eroded over the past weeks but have not been replaced,
- No visible adherence to surface cleaning and counters cleaning especially in delivery and bakery sections.
- No adherence to social distancing at the till queues in-store and no one enforcing social distancing in stores.
- No perspex dividers or separators, between till operators and members of the public. This is especially problematic as Government and employers are well aware that in several countries these areas have been identified as high risk spaces for both employees and customers.
Critical Emerging Issues
Sprouting nightspots and drinking spots
Reports from our networks continue to indicate deeply widespread practise of the pubs, bars and drinking spots both legal and illegal selling in rural and urban communities who are selling alcohol and serving patrons well into the night and operating beyond the prescribed COVID-19 regulations. This trend is usually observed during weekends.
Reports from our networks implicate the communities in Caledonia, Ushewokunze, Norton, Chivi and Kuwadzana.
Further problematizing such reports are cases that include the practice of enforcement officers frequenting the same spots or passing though without taking any actions.
- We remind enforcement services that public policing includes community policing, which is centred on the principles of ensuring communities are able to respect the regulations and securing community cooperation.
- We reiterate that the above principle is fundamental to enforcement of COVID-19 regulations and particularly to the ultimate goal of slowing the spread of the disease.
Improper and non-existent adherence to mandatory mask wearing
Reports continue to reveal heightened lack of compliance with public health guidelines and safety protocols, particularly the mandatory use of masks.
Our networks in Hwange, Guruve, and Chivi have reported that the majority of communities no longer take heed of COVID-19 pandemic, as they demonstrate complacency and argue that the Nation is now out of the woods.
Increasingly distressed and alarmed by the widespread national practice of non-wearing of masks and non-adherence to social distancing in both rural and urban communities which we have raised before in this report, we highlight that public sentiment on COVID-19 clearly undermines the severity and importance of COVID-19 prevention measures.
Other reports have shown a continued improper use of masks, by the majority of citizens who move around with masks hanging on their chins;
- We therefore urge proper use of masks as per the guidelines by the WHO.
- We further recommend enhanced awareness programmes by Government which is the lead player in a pandemic and strengthen the support of stakeholders such as civil society organisations and the private sector in raising critical awareness in communities on the reality of COVID-19.
- We continue to recommend a strong campaign on mask usage and disposal. We reiterate the commonly cited practice of persons “trying on masks”, the sharing of masks and the washing and reuse of disposable masks, matters that still remain unaddressed in the existing awareness campaigns and mask regulations issued by Government, which remains the lead trusted source of the verified COVID-19 information.
Pregnancies in adolescent girls
We raise to the fore the issue of increased reports from our networks, of pregnancies in adolescent girls as the COVID-19 crisis continues to escalate in the country. Continuing to reiterate the unmet need for access to and safeguarding measures on sexual reproductive health and rights for adolescent girls,
Decrying the stigmatisation suffered by adolescent girls seeking to access accurate and adequate information on sexual reproductive health rights and services.
Concerned further, by the increased vulnerabilities faced by adolescent girls in communities at large. Noting that nearly 1 in 10 adolescent girls (age 15-19) give birth every year while many die or are injured during childbirth.
Concerned by the context that girls in primary schools face greater risks of pregnancies in comparison to secondary schooling girls (37% as at 2019) we are highlighting the exacerbation of vulnerabilities raised by the COVID-19 lockdown in communities for girls;
- We call for stronger measures to provide mobile clinics and community based health care workers to support adolescent girl’s access to sexual reproductive health and rights services.
- We call for the activation of measures to extend protection of young girls already in marriage during the COVID-19 lockdown.
- We call for vigilance against the rise of child marriages during the COVID-19 lockdown.
- We call for mandatory sentencing framework for rape.
We note the announcement by the Zimbabwe Republic Police who have stated that, with immediate effect, the ZRP will be strengthening their enforcement of COVID-19 measures. We note the concern raised by police of the numbers of persons arrested for failing to wear masks, making unnecessary trips and participating in unnecessary gatherings.
However, we remain concerned by the approach of policy makers and law makers, in regards to the COVID-19 regulations themselves, which are disconnected from sector operational realities, contain significant loopholes and insufficient guidelines to the generality of Zimbabweans. In this context, it creates conditions conducive to undue discretion to enforcement officers, who have been seen to unevenly exercise their mandate.
- We call upon Government to resist the temptation to have an overly securitised response to the increase of COVID-19 cases.
- We recommend that the COVID-19 cases continue to rise Government makes an effort to review the COVID-19 regulations, to adjust the applicable guidelines and give increased guidance to society in order to make the efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus real.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe