Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 112 – WCoZ Situation Report

112 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 of a female 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. 

We continue to highlight the concerns regarding the population of detained persons in police stations and in prisons.

We highlight the continued deplorable conditions of the police stations and the limited adherence to strict sanitization, and mask wearing protocols in police stations.

We note with concern that the long outstanding publication of the status report to the public on the protection of the extremely vulnerable 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;

Deeply distressed by press reports of two positive COVID-19 cases have been recorded at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, adding to unofficial reports of a COVID-19 death at the same place and a third case at the correctional services department’s downtown Harare building. The press reports indicate that the two are a prisons officer and an ex-soldier, who is the husband of another member working for the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, who resides in the Chikurubi camp.

Concerned further by press reports that the prisons population has returned to the pre-amnesty period immediately prior to the onset of the lockdown 112 days ago. We remain concerned by the congested nature of the prison population and the ancillary impact on COVID-19 in such centres.

  • We call for Parliament of Zimbabwe to undertake oversight visits to these vulnerable communities urgently.

Aware that most of our detention facilities 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.
  • We urge for particular attention to vulnerable detainees such as juveniles, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions.
  • We call for increased sanitation protocols in police cells, prisons and remand centres.
  • We call for increased testing of the prisons population including inmates and correctional services support staffers.
  • We call for the issuance of the masks to persons being detained in-prisons.
  • We call for COVID-19 awareness and response trainings to inmates and staffers alike in remand and in prisons. 

Critical Emerging Issues

Religious gatherings 

Today marked the 5th Sunday, since the restriction on church gatherings was lifted. Reports from our grassroots champions and networks, in Mutasa, Murehwa and Chivi areas a huge number of congregants attended to their respective churches of worship. While reports show an improvement regards adherence to safety protocols and public health guidelines such as temperature screening and use of sanitizers, the increase of community transmission cases require congregants in ensuring physical distancing and strict use of masks. 

Disturbing reports show that members of a certain religious sect have been convening gatherings of over 100 congregants, with total disregard of social and physical distancing measures.

  • We continue to urge church leaders to safeguard their congregants by ensuring strict compliance with the containment laws and public health guidelines.
  • We further urge the development and implementation of clear strategies for enforcing containment measures not only within the church, but throughout all public gatherings.

Women in quarantine and isolation centres

We continue to reflect on the status of Quarantine and isolation centres in addressing gender-specific issues such as sexual abuse, violence and hygiene. In order to ensure security and safeguarding of women and children, who are the most vulnerable sections of the population, there are critical measures that need to be established and implemented. This calls for accelerated safeguarding frameworks within the centres through the integration of SGBV into the Quarantine Centres Management, including training of staff on how to properly service different genders. We further recommend establishment of protection Guidelines and dissemination of information in the 16 National Languages, on sexual violence prevention and reporting channels within the centres and the help available. It is also recommended that Government enhances the provision of: 

  • Access to applicable and supportive ameliorative services for women, the elderly, children, and persons living with disabilities in quarantine. 
  • Access to services, including adequate sexual and reproductive health services, to both men and women without stigma.
  • Appropriate and adequate provision of water and sanitization.

Outstanding Issue

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.

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