246 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as of 29 November 2020, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 9 950 after 128 new local cases were reported. Active cases went up to 1 192. The total number of recoveries now stands at 8 482 after 10 new recoveries were recorded. The death toll goes up to 276 after one death recorded.
Tonight is the eve of the land border re-opening? This reopening will occur in the context of alarming increases in positive cases which are local transmission cases. We are gravely concerned regarding the readiness and preparedness of the land borders to appropriately detect and reduce the spread of COVID-19 from imported cases to the local COVID-19 case load.
We warn against a rushed reopening of land borders if the COVID-19 measures in the border posts are not yet ready. We highlight the visit to the Beitbridge Border Post by Members of Parliament earlier this month. We highlight the concerns of the MPs who appropriately indicated high levels of weaknesses in regards to addressing the risks of COVID-19.
We implore duty bearers and the National COVID-19 taskforce to robustly ensure the safety of the population in regards to border opening and all ancillary services to ensure the national caseload does not become an unmanageable burden on our already deeply fragile healthcare sector.
Critical Emerging Issue
Community mass testing
While noting the rising statistics of active cases, particularly local transmissions, we recognize the need for an advanced testing strategy that ensures community mass testing and contact tracing. We remain concerned at schools reporting positive cases rights around the country. Whilst we note the rises in cases also indicates a rise in testing, we consider the testing available must be expanded to communities to ensure a greater and better picture of COVID-19 spread.
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 reiterate our recommendation on equal attention to be directed towards mass community testing, not only in schools.
- We further 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 call for the testing of communities centred around learning facilities that are reporting positive cases of COVID-19 in boarding schools to ensure we do not have an unchecked spread of COVID-19 in communities.
- We additionally reinforce our call for an advanced testing strategy in the public sector and urge Government to update the Nation on the progress of testing all members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and all lockdown enforcement officers.
Handling of returnees utilising illegal entry points at Beitbridge
We commend the intensifying of humane security measures at illegal entry points, as a measure to limit the potential spreading of COVID-19 by returnees who are attempting to gain entry without being tested or subjected to quarantine.
Whilst we acknowledge the role of security officials in managing the issue of both legal and illegal returnees, we continue to be distressed at the treatment of returnees generally. We raise concerns about the manner in which some of the returnees are allegedly being handled, e.g being huddled together without physical distancing or sanitization as they await being sent to quarantine centres.
We highlight that this practice may increase the risk of infection amongst returnees before they are even committed into quarantine.
- We therefore urge health authorities to ensure prioritisation of safety of all returnees by ensuring that the handling of returnees is conducted in a safe and expedient manner, without opening them up to a potential risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe