212 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as at 26 October 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 8 303 after 27 new cases were reported. Active cases went up to 264. No new recoveries were recorded; therefore, the total number of recoveries stands at 7 797. The death toll has gone up to 242.
Today Cabinet has announced a phased opening of borders beginning 1st December 2020. We note that the phased opening will start with private passenger vehicles and pedestrians, which will then be followed by public passenger transport after necessary assessments have been made. While these latest developments will ensure free movement for the general public, we urge strict enforcement of public health guidelines and surveillance measures, to ensure that the country does not plunge into a second wave of COVID-19 as is currently being experienced in Europe.
We further note the review of curfew hours from 2000hrs to 2200hrs. Noting this as a positive development, we continue to urge the general public to observe and comply with containment measures and avoid reckless behaviour of convening unnecessary party gathering and drinking spots well into the night, without taking any precautionary measures to protect themselves from the potential risk of transmission.
Critical Emerging Issues
Community mass testing
While noting fluctuating statistics of active cases, and the increased relaxation of the lockdown, we recognize the need for an advanced test strategy which ensures community mass testing and contact tracing. We submit that 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 access 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.
Second phase re-opening of schools
We highlight the second phase of the reopening of schools as we note that today was the second day of reopening of non-examination classes across the country. We further highlight the surges of crowds in public spaces particularly in the CBD in the past 48 hours owing to reopening of schools, with stores and shops supplying education materials having large-scale numbers of clients and queues which did not abide by the COVID-19 measures. We note further the congestion in the public transport sector. All these factors in our view represent a high risk of the potential spread of COVID-19.
Commending the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for the adoption of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to guide adoption and adherence to safety under COVID-19 in schools and the inclusion of a sentinel surveillance system to support early detection of outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools. We however continue to raise alarm at the efficacy of such measures when they are not underpinned by testing of students and teacher population in the schools.
We note further that the sharing of desks and textbooks has been banned under COVID-19. We therefore await the unveiling of practical, resourced measures to ensure that fragile underprivileged schools with grossly inadequate learning materials will be supported to ensure non-discriminatory and exclusionary practices and measures. In the same breadth, therefore, we continue to highlight the need to prioritise the safety of learners and their teachers, from potential COVID-19 risks.
Noting the ongoing challenges within the Education sector which require speedy redress. We therefore recommend:
- Engagement in dialogue between Government and teachers in resolving the ongoing challenges.
- Testing of learners and teachers for COVID-19.
- Strengthening safety protocols and measures within the Education sector to minimize risk of transmission of COVID-19 in schools.
- Provision of facemasks and sanitizers at no cost to pupils and teachers.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe