Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 113 – WCoZ Situation Report

113 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 20 July 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 1,713 after 102 new cases tested positive, of which 81 are local transmissions.  The death toll has risen to 26, following the death of a 71-year-old female. May her soul rest in peace. We send love and prayers to the family of the loved ones.

Deeply distressed by the widespread reports of frontline health care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Bulawayo, Gweru, Zvishavane, and Harare. Amplifying the calls for the Health Care Workers to receive the critical support they continue to demand for adequate personal protective care, improved working conditions including medical supplies, better working conditions and increased salaries.

Noting the reports of 6 large scale blue chip companies which have reported in the public domain confirmations for their respective employees who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Further noting reports of government agencies which have also indicated their employees have tested positive;

  • We acknowledge the commitment by Government to test 100,000 community shared across the country. 
  • We highlight that which is obvious, Zimbabwe COVID-19 cases are increasing and the mix of measures to curb the spread of the virus need to be comprehensive and make sense to both policy makers and to citizens.
  • We call on Government to seek to protect and ring-fence the health sector urgently. 
  • We call for the review for the COVID-19 regulations to contextualise and ensure loopholes and areas that were completely unattended are addressed to make the regulations real and practical.
  • We call for the vigilance of spreading of COVID-19 to not be focused predominately on central business districts but residential areas, food markets, and public transport spaces.

We commend the Government position announced today to; 

  • Limit government ministries and agencies to those considered essential services as guided by the Ministry of Health and Child Care. 
  • Steps to resume closure of Chinhoyi University and other Universities. 
  • The development of public transport guidelines which we await .

Noting the review of the health strategy and isolation centres and await to see the expedition of the decision made under this program 

Critical Emerging Issues 

Report on status of testing of employees in public and private sectors

Reports reveal that a number of Government employees have been exposed to COVID-19 in one of the Public Service Commission buses. 

Noting startling numbers in the Ministry of Health and Child Care COVID-19 reports, particularly on local transmission, we remain wary of thousands of employees in both the private and public sectors making use of public transport, reporting for work, and coming into contact with others, without undergoing any COVID-19 tests.

Noting that over 2 months ago, Government made it mandatory for all employees to be tested for COVID-19 we remain concerned that such testing has not been occurring. 

Further concerned that the inspection of private sector companies which was touted has not actually been taking place 

  • We call for the publication of the inspection that have been undertaken in the private sector and the results of such inspections. 
  • We call for review of the COVID-19 regulations regarding the obligation of employers to test for COVID-19. The regulation make reference to testing every 14days and yet the Minister of Health and Child Care made an announcement that the employers could test after every 30 days. This situation must be addressed.
  • We urge Government to update the Nation on the current status of compliance with this law, particularly for employees in the public sector. The Ministry of Health and Child-Care must publicize the statistics of Government employees who have been tested for COVID-19 since the gazetting of this particular law.

Water and sanitation

Communities continue to face challenges in accessing adequate water and sanitation. We note that this global pandemic requires increased levels of hygiene and in particular, clean and safer potable water. We highlight the plight of women in Gweru, Bulawayo and other surrounding areas who have been placed under phenomenal strain, as they seek to access water through other alternative means.

  • We therefore urge the critical need for the rapid escalation of medium and long-term water solutions as part of the COVID-19 response actions.
  • We therefore 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 an increased expedition of operational and administrative responsiveness to communities in crisis not only by the constrained local authorities but by central government and its applicable national institutions to ensure that citizens are able to access water.

Outstanding Issues

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 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.

Protection of the detainee and prison population 

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 coronavirus 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 all for COVID-19 awareness and response trainings to inmates and staffers alike in remand and in prisons.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

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