144 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as at 20 August 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 5 745 confirmed cases after 102 new cases tested positive, of which all cases were local transmission cases. The death toll stands at 151 after 1 death was recorded in the 24 hour period. According to statistics, active cases now stand at 1 069, with 83 new recoveries and a cumulative total of 4 525 recoveries have been recorded to date.
We are concerned by the increase of cases in the health sector. This is a critical point of contention as the health sector is the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 and must be protected and prioritised at the highest levels.
We are deeply concerned by the continued denial and in many instances delay in access to health care services prior to patients providing COVID-19 negative certificates. This practices is literally costing lives.
We draw attention of policy makers in both the public and private health sector on the high cots of the tests which is a barrier to most persons accessing tests which range between USD60-USD100 far from the reach of ordinary Zimbabweans. These practices are a denial of the right of health and the right to life.
We further draw attention to the reality that the same tests take over 48 hours in most instances to provide the tests results effectively entrenching the denial of health care for the period in which the test results stand pending.
Critical Emerging Issues
Relaxation on adherence to public health guidelines
Our networks monitoring the COVID-19 situation in their communities have reported a continued general trend, throughout communities, businesses and public spaces, indicating a relaxation in observing social distancing, use of face masks and sanitizers. Concerned that failure to adequately observe social and physical distancing may erode all the gains recorded so far in the COVID-19 battle.
- We remind the general populace on the need to fortify their efforts in maintaining both social and physical distancing, in every environment which may include work, public transport or supermarkets.
Safeguarding Healthcare workers
We raise concern over lack of prioritisation of the health sector, particularly the plight of nurses, who for now have been on strike for over 2 months, without any meaningful dialogue or solutions provided by Government. We note the huge strain under which the health care system in Zimbabwe has been placed by COVID-19. Distressed to note that as at 15 August over 480 healthcare workers had contracted COVID-19. We further note the growing reports of various communities and classes of persons finding themselves dealing with illness and deaths related to COVID-19, without access to health care services or PPE.
- We therefore call upon the Government to demonstrate its commitment to equitable access to health sector services and equitable access to PPEs for all classes of persons, in Zimbabwe with due regard to the multitude of Constitutional provisions which remain extant.
- We further urge the safeguarding of all frontline workers, by ensuring among other things, provision of adequate PPE.
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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)