238 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as of 21 November 2020, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 9 172 after 52 new local cases were reported. Active cases went up to 672. The total number of recoveries now stands at 8 235 after 11 new recoveries were recorded. The death toll still stands at 265.
We amplify reports from Masvingo Provincial Hospital where 20 persons have tested positive for COVID-19. We raise the matter concerning COVID-19 cases at the hospital not only among the general public but pertaining to health care workers. The implications of health care workers facing COVID-19 are disproportionately negative for women and maternal health care, as explained in our report of the 14th of November.
Presently, reports indicate that new cases of COVID-19 are being recorded at the hospital daily and that the maternity wing of the Hospital is failing to provide adequate services to expecting mothers as midwives and other health care workers are now in quarantine and others are in isolation at Rujeko Isolation Centre.
We continue to highlight grave concerns for the healthcare workers who are continuing to report for duty under extremely difficult circumstances. Healthcare workers are continuing to raise their concerns regarding poor workplace conditions which are causing critical frontline workers to lose confidence in the capacity of their places of work to be safe environments.
- We amplify these concerns with regard to the realities of healthcare workers and their experiences during this pandemic which have included, among other factors, on-going inconsistencies in accessing Personal Protective Equipment, placing undue risk and strain on frontline health care workers who predominately are women.
- We further continue to reiterate the low representation of women in policy-making positions in the healthcare sector in the COVID-19 response architecture. Women do not drive the sector nor hold critical mass in decision-making positions which ultimately affect the healthcare force, dominated by women on the ground.
- We further raise concerns on staffing shortages, in non-metropolitan provinces, created as a result of healthcare workers who understandably have to go into quarantine and self-isolation. These shortages directly compromise the levels and quality of service provision to the health-seeking public and, in particular, have a direct negative impact on maternal and infant health care which is already under strain.
Underscoring, once more, that ultimately the negative fallout of COVID-19 management in the healthcare sector has a direct correlation to women’s and girls’ lives and rights as women constitute the bulk of the health-seeking public.
Critical Emerging Issues
Community mass testing
While noting the rising statistics of active cases, and the increased relaxation of the lockdown, we recognize the need for an advanced testing 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 that the Government provides 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.
Increased social activities and non-compliance with COVID-19 prevention measures
We continue to note the growing practice of non-adherence to safety measures such as physical distancing, sanitization of workplaces, wearing of facemasks and regular temperature checks. Our networks have also raised concern over some commuter operators plying long-distance routes failing to maintain public health safety protocols such as physical distancing, and sanitization. This raises concerns especially in a context where COVID-19 is quickly gaining ground in schools and tertiary institutions. We, therefore, worry that the complacency displayed by the public, businesses and employers may plunge the country into another wave of COVID-19.
- We applaud the recent efforts of enforcement agents in strengthening efforts to ensure adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures.
- We urge citizens to observe public health guidelines as they meet and interact in public places such as drinking spots and beerhalls.
- We continue to call for the strict implementation of public health and safety protocols in the public transport system.
We urge businesses to continuously fumigate premises and workplaces for the safety of workers and patrons.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe