143 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as at 19 August 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 5 643 confirmed cases after 265 new cases tested positive, of which 42 of these were local transmission cases. The death toll stands at 150 after 9 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours. According to statistics, active cases now stand at 1 051, after a cumulative total of 4 442 recoveries has been recorded to date.
Today marks single largest daily increases of cases at 265 cases. We note with alarm that the cases of COVID-19 are continuing to rise sharply in the country despite relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown measures.
We continue to celebrate the saving of lives and increased recovery rate of patients who had contracted COVID-19. Whilst we continue to support all life-saving interventions, it is critical that the public is aware of the case management and best practices that are being utilised in Zimbabwe, to address the rapid recovery rate that began over a 24 hour period and is now on a rapid upward trajectory.
We draw attention to the following;
- On the 16th of August 2020, 45 new recoveries were recorded. At that date, the total number of recoveries was at 2092.
- On the 17th of August 2020, 1756 new recoveries were recorded. At that date, the total number of recoveries was at 3848.
- On the 18th of August 2020, 257 new recoveries were recorded. At that date, the total number of recoveries was at 4105
- On the 19th of August 2020, 337 new recoveries were recorded. At this date, the total number of recoveries is at 4 442.
We continue to seek clarification on regarding the manner and criteria for which recoveries are treated and recorded particularly on whether or not recovered cases are actually clinically tested and determined to be negative. And moreover, clarity on the type of testing conducted: PCR or rapid tests.
Critical Emerging Issues
Outstanding reports on COVID-19 preparedness and response
Appreciating that enforcement officers, are working hard to ensure enforcement of the lockdown, which includes physically arresting persons, it is critical for Government to assure the Nation, that these officers do not pose a danger to the persons and communities wherein they are enforcing the lockdown. The question is: Have the enforcement officers been tested for COVID-19? If not, considering how the officers interact with citizens at roadblocks, physically inspecting and perusing licences and travel permits, how safe are citizens from a potential exposure to COVID-19? Again, in the absence of a clear testing strategy within the public sector and the enforcement sector, there is a danger that enforcement officers themselves may become another hotspot for infection.
- We therefore urge Government and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, to give a long outstanding report on the state of preparedness of the law enforcement department in responding to COVID-19.
- We further urge Government to update the Nation on the progress of testing of all members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and all lockdown enforcement officers.
In addition, earlier in July, our tracking shows that health authorities in Bulawayo identified Khami Maximum Prison and Bulawayo Prison as hotspots for infection. We note that the Nation is yet to receive a publicized report on the protection of prison population.
- 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.
Update on state of preparedness
We remain alarmed at the failure to address the readiness of the health care centres in particular the issues pertaining to strengthening the capacity of the health care centres to handle the inevitable increased cases of patients requiring hospitalisation and high-level care support. Above and beyond the extensive leadership crisis in the public health sector the Zimbabwean public continues to be unaware of the;
- number of hospital beds are actually available in the country.
- number of hospital beds ready to take care of the patients in need of high-quality care including ventilation support.
- health care centres, across the 10 provinces have the capacity to actually take in patients.
- ratio of PPEs to health care personnel currently obtaining.
- actual number of health care workers who can be adequately covered by PPEs whilst on duty.
- level of medical stocks in the country against the increasing disease burden.
- point of resolution of the wide spread industrial action across the sector.
In the absence of such public information, the public therefore is forced to makes assessment of state capacity and state intention based on their individual and collective experiences and knowledge through which the Government losses substantive space to engage progressively in the public policy domain.
We therefore urge Government to constantly engage and update the Nation on progress being realised regards state of readiness to respond to COVID-19
Delays in Implementing Social Protection Measures
We have been consistently raising the direct correlation between the on-going lockdown on the informal sector and hunger in communities. The lockdown has resulted in most households’ exposure to food insecurity, due to loss of income. It is against this background that, we are enraged to note that the Government COVID-19 relief payment for vulnerable households is still pegged at ZWL $300, which is yet to be disbursed to the intended beneficiaries, anyway.
It is mockery to set ZWL $300 mobile money payments relief for an average household, when statistics show that the Food Poverty Line, for just one person in July stood at ZWL $1 329, while that of an average household stood at ZWL $6 643.
ZWL $300 can only purchase 3 loaves of bread.
We urge Government to desist from establishing such self-defeating and out of touch policies, which do not, in any way, improve the lives of vulnerable members of society, particularly women led households. Therefore, the COVID-19 relief scheme has failed before it has even rolled out and requires to be re-visited.
- We query policy measures put in place by Government to ensure that citizens access basic commodities in the time of COVID-19.
- We further call the State to order, particularly on its duty to ensure that citizens enjoy the progressive realisation of their fundamental right to food and water.
- We recommend an increase in the COVID-19 relief pay-outs, and an expediated implementation of social protection programs for all vulnerable households.
Water and Sanitation
We highlight once more the extreme difficulties faced by communities in Bulawayo in regards to the two week notice that the city will not have water until a fortnight as authorities scramble to replaces a power mains cable that services a City of 1 million residents. We raise alarm once more to scandals regarding access to water and the incredible negative implications for women and girls lives. The dire situation on water shortages has continued to force women to access the water from unsafe sources, exposing them to untold health hazards, including COVID-19. Our networks throughout the country, especially in Bulawayo have reported lack of sustainable means to access water, due to rationing schemes by Council. While in April, the High Court of Zimbabwe made a ruling on ensuring access to water by residents, there has been little compliance with the judgement.
While initiatives such as bowser water delivery only provide temporary relief, such measures are not the panacea to the problem as they are unsustainable in the long run.
- It is recommended that the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, and all local authorities in their respective districts, ensure adequate provision water, through the implementation of short and long-term strategies.
- We further urge the critical need for the rapid escalation of medium- and long-term water solutions as part of the COVID-19 response actions.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)