119 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 26 July 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 2 512 after 78 new cases tested positive (yesterday a total of 138 persons tested positive), of which today 74 are local transmissions. Cumulative recoveries are now at 518 cases. The death toll currently stands at 34, with a total number of 1 960 active cases.
The positive cases in Zimbabwe are now increasing daily by slightly over 100 cases per day and whilst we acknowledge the announcement of the stricter lockdown measures, we note with concern the heavily securitised nature of the measures. The curfew, supported with criminalisation of escapes from quarantine centres and prohibitions on social religious and political activities.
These limitations, without being supported by a state report, on the preparedness of the public health centres in readiness to deal with increased cases, the comprehensive tracing report of local cases, the number of hospital beds ready to take on extreme cases of COVID-19 patients, the measures to address the on-going industrial action by health care workers, the failure to appoint substantive policy and administrative leads in the Ministry of Health and Childcare including 5 main hospitals, fundamentally undermine the perception of taking public health centric measures the government seeks to communicate.
Critical Emerging Issues
Mass community testing and tracing
As the nation has witnessed a sharp increase in community transmission cases, 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.
- We reinforce our call for an advanced test 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 the all the local transmission cases thus far and to appropriately inform the applicable communities.
- Further, whilst we acknowledge the fact that the testing prioritisation has been directed to mandatory quarantine and isolation centres, we remain deeply distressed concerned at limited testing to communities broadly.
Report on the tracing of prisons COVID-19 cases
Reports show that health authorities in Bulawayo have identified Khami Maximum Prison and Bulawayo Prison as hotspots for infection. This is distressing, particularly considering that we are yet to receive a publicized report on the protection of prison population. Further noting that the Ministry of Health and Child Care is yet to update the nation on the tracing of COVID-19 cases recorded at Beitbridge and Plumtree Prisons;
- We await the long overdue update on the COVID-19 tracing status of the Khami Maximum Prison, Bulawayo Prison and Beitbridge Prison.
- We continue to urge 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, paying particular attention to vulnerable detainees such as juveniles, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions.
Religious gatherings and funerals
While there has been disharmony and inconsistency in terms of the lockdown position on religious gatherings, reports reveal non-compliance with COVID-19 regulations, by certain religious sects. The same reports have also been noted by our networks regarding funerals, where there is non-compliance with public health guidelines such as physical distancing and use of hand sanitizers.
- 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 religious gatherings.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)