137 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 12 August 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 4 893 confirmed cases after 75 cases tested positive of which, 74 are local transmission cases, and 1 is a returnee case. The Nation officially recorded 18 deaths, making it the highest number to be ever recorded in a single day. The death toll now stands at 122.
From the statistics presented on 12 August 2020, it appears that COVID-19 cases in Harare are struggling to recover, as compared to other geographical areas such as Bulawayo. In Harare, while a cumulative total of 1 884 COVID-19 cases were recorded since the outbreak of the disease, only 71 recoveries have been recorded to date. On the other hand, in Bulawayo while a cumulative total of 1 150 COVID-19 cases were recorded, since the outbreak of the disease, a total of 706 recoveries have been recorded to date.
We hope that this variance does not demonstrate different quality of care or case management which should be accorded equitably to all persons in the circumstance. We also encourage the National COVID-19 taskforce to ensure rapid best practices sharing amongst responders to support learning and adaptive service provision. We believe it will be useful for other COVID-19 response teams throughout the country to draw lessons and best practices on case management from Bulawayo in order to boost recovery rates in other provinces as well.
Critical Emerging Issues
Management of COVID-19 deaths and Burials
As the COVID-19 deaths statistics continue to rise, we remain alive to reports from our networks on the burial guidelines regarding COVID-19 cases.
We highlight the WHO COVID-19 Body Management and Burial Guidelines for COVID-19 persons which seek to strive to ensure that bodies are managed in a manner that does not expose those who are the body to the potential of infection. The burials make specific allowance for Burial or Cremation. These guidelines are in line with the Zimbabwean regulations on Burial and Cremations Act 5:03.
The WHO COVID-19 guidelines further make specific references to cultural rites which may include and contact such as touching and kissing the body are not permitted. Accordingly;
- We call upon the Government to clarify and raise awareness on the safety measures to be taken during burials to ensure the communities are well prepared in advance.
- We further note that the preparation of the body must be managed by persons who are adequately trained to handle such cases further and supported with sufficient PPE.
Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and Maternity
We note the mounting woes within the health sector, particularly on access to sexual and reproductive health rights, and maternity services. Reports from our networks reveal challenges in accessing contraceptives, which has resulted in a spike of unwanted pregnancies.
- We therefore recommend the availability of sexual reproductive products such as free family planning pills and condoms.
- We further recommend implementation of measures to support women and ensure that they access pre and post-natal care, and reproductive health care services without any impediments due to COVID-19.
Stigma and discrimination
As COVID-19 continues to plough through local communities, we witness an increase in social stigma and discriminatory behaviours against people diagnosed with COVID-19 and those perceived to have been in contact with the virus, including health care personnel. We note that stigma can undermine social cohesion and drive people to hide the illness in order to avoid discrimination. This may result in the disease likely spreading as people fail to seek immediate medical attention.
- We therefore recommend that stakeholders, community leaders and Government, intensify efforts in meaningfully engaging at the community level, with citizens, including people who have recovered from COVID-19, with their consent, to lead in increasing awareness and reducing stigma and discrimination.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe