204 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as of 19 October 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 8 159, after 12 new cases were reported. Active cases went up to 244 and 5 new recoveries were recorded. The total number of recoveries still stands at 7 683. The death now stands at 232 after 1 death was recorded. Bulawayo is currently leading with active 124 COVID-19 cases, while Matebeleland North and South have the lowest cases of 2 per Province.
Raising the alarm on Masvingo Province where our networks report widespread relaxation of attitudes towards COVID-19 precautions, we are grossly alarmed at widespread lack of mask wearing, zero respect of physical distancing practices and weak hand sanitization/hand washing.
- We call on all the District COVID-19 Taskforces to urgently practically reconvene and put pressure on change of attitudes in the provinces.
- We call on the provincial taskforce teams to immediately address the potential crisis in the province as inter-city travel resumes and local cases continue to rise.
- We call upon the expedition of enforcement of COVID-19 regulations to safeguard the communities in Masvingo province at large.
Emerging Critical Issues
Stigma and discrimination
Reports from our networks continue to reveal 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 such stigma may 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.
Community mass testing
While noting an increase in active cases, we recognize the need for an advanced test strategy which ensures community mass testing and contact tracing. In the absence of mass community testing and public accounting for local transmission case-tracing, it is impossible to determine the appropriate reflection of the COVID-19 pandemic prevalence in Zimbabwe.
- We call for increased testing and the ramping up of accessing to testing kits and consumables for Zimbabwe.
- We therefore recommend the Government to provide a clear plan of action to maintaining vigilance on COVID-19 on testing tracing and treatment for the current period to Mid-year 2021 – We further reinforce our call for an advanced testing strategy in the Public sector and urge Government to update the Nation on the progress of testing of all members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and all lockdown enforcement officers.
A potential upsurge of COVID-19 cases
We highlight indicating that a referral hospital in Mashonaland West province has been shut down following a COVID-19 outbreak, which has resulted in the death of one of the workers. This is particularly distressing as the Nation seems to have made progress in flattening the curve. Our monitoring has shown that while cases of COVID-19 have gone down, there is heightened relaxation by various institutions from strictly observing COVID-19 regulations and safety protocols. We are concerned that such conduct may pose a danger of a potential upsurge in COVID-19 cases;
- We continue to remind the public, Government businesses and stakeholders that safety protocols remain critical COVID-19 prevention and containment measures even in the light of resumption of social and economic operations.
- We reinforce our calls upon Government to continue to protect the constitutionally protected right to health for health workers by ensuring that they are not negligently exposed to COVID-19.
- We urge the general populace to fortify their efforts in maintaining both mask wearing and physical distancing in every environment which may include work, food markets, public transport or supermarkets.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe