166 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as at 10 September 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 7 453. While 24 new cases were recorded, active cases went down to 1 596, following 93 new recoveries. A total of 5 635 recoveries have been recorded to date. As at 10 September, the death toll stood at 222.
We continue to decry the urbanisation and centralisation of enforcement of mandatory masks wearing, social distancing and sanitisation protocols. We note with concern from reports of our networks, rampant disregard for mask wearing in residential communities, peri-urban communities including mining communities and rural communities in communal spaces and platforms such as water points, dip tanks, trading areas and during cropping exercises. The lowered level of adherence is deeply alarming as the rate of infections is not lowered yet. We are deeply concerned regarding the reduced practices of washing and sanitisation of hands which is a key element in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 where there is still no vaccine and no amount of preventable deaths is acceptable.
We call for government, social partners and citizens to remain vigilant and strongly encourage a shift in social behaviour in order to save lives.
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. Aware that the lockdown has impoverished many communities, especially women-led households which have been exposed 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.
Stigma and discrimination
Concerned with reports of 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. Noting that stigma undermines social cohesion and drives people to hide the illness in order to avoid discrimination thus resulting 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.
- We continue to call for the publication of the long outstanding national tracing report to account for the value chain of traced, tested and treated persons.
Re-opening of schools and COVID-19 preventative measures
As the schools’ open dates draw closer, our networks raise concern over preventative measures put in place to ensure the safety of pupils and teachers. The open dates have been announced as at 14 September 2020 for those sitting for Cambridge exams, and 28 September for those sitting for ZIMSEC.
While we are aware, as reported that during the June-July exams, no COVID-19 transmissions were recorded amongst pupils, we highlight the change in circumstances regarding community transmission cases. Lately, we have experienced spikes in local transmission cases, and thus underscoring the critical need to ensure the safety of pupils, teachers and other ancillary staff.
- We therefore emphasize putting in place measures to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19. This must include employing the same strategy as that adopted by the Parliament of Zimbabwe and ensuring mandatory testing of all teaching personnel.
- We call upon the government to report the extent to which it has directly financed and resourced the readiness of schools pertaining to the provision of masks and the provision of sanitizers.
- We call upon the government to resist the practice of over-burdening schooling communities with policy measures that it is unwilling to take extraordinary measures to finance.
- We call upon the specific announcement for indigent families and vulnerable students in preparedness for the resumption of schools to be clear, transparent and tangible.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)