155 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as at 31 August 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 6 497 confirmed cases after 85 new cases tested positive, 80 are local transmission cases while 5 are imported cases. The positivity rate of today stands at 10% and we hope testing is expanded to ensure a strong and accurate picture of the pandemic is presented. Active cases were reported to have gone down to 1 074. A cumulative total of 5 221 recoveries have been recorded to date. The death record has now gone past the 200 mark after 6 deaths were recorded as at 31 August.
We commend the Parliament of Zimbabwe for embarking on a compulsory testing for all its legislators prior to sitting. We believe that this will go a long way in minimizing exposure and limiting the spread of COVID-19 within Parliament.
We anticipate the announcement from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, regarding school’s opening, which is expected to be made this week. We emphasise that in determining the question as to the re-opening of the education sector, the safety of learners and their teachers should always be prioritised. This includes putting in place measures to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19.
As the country continues to ease COVID-19 restrictions we remain deeply alarmed by the level of readiness in the health sector. We highlight a sample of the concern, based on reports that indicate that the Town of Kwekwe which has a population of 300 000 has only 300 hospital beds indicating 1 bed for every 1000 people.
- We urge the Government of Zimbabwe once more to make public the readiness capacity of the national health sector and indicate the emergency place in place to ameliorate the inevitable strain and implications on the citizenry of Zimbabwe.
Critical Emerging Issues
Delays in implementing social protection measures
Reports from our community networks continue to raise a red flag over hunger and lack of social protection mechanisms. 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 insecurities, due to loss of income.
- 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.
Public transport a potential COVID-19 hotspot
We continue to note the public transport as a lurking potential hotspot for COVID-19. Our monitoring shows that most of the ZUPCO buses are no longer maintaining public health safety protocols such as physical distancing, and temperature checks. To worsen the situation, the mshika-shika transport system has now become fully operational, without total disregard of the public health guidelines. This raises concern as we experience the spike of COVID-19 cases at unprecedented levels. This weakens the system’s ability to detect potential COVID-19 cases amongst the commuting public, thus exposing the public to infection.
- We continue to call for the strict implementation of public health safety protocols in the public transport system.
- We urge enforcement agents to ensure that physical distancing is upheld by the ZUPCO transport operators.
Protecting and supporting adolescent girls
Our networks in different grassroots networks continue to raise distress over the increasing rate of gender-based violence, and the need to protect adolescent girls. Noting the high probability of adolescent girls’ exposure to sexual exploitation, and child marriages during the COVID-19 pandemic. In mitigating these risks, and developing early warning systems, we recommend the following:
- Government agencies, Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit (VFU), Social Welfare Department, and civil society organisations to prioritise awareness raising and support services on protecting adolescent girls.
- Government to create and facilitate stronger solid community base for the welfare and protection of children, particularly adolescent girls, during emergency situations and recovery planning.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe