258 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 11 December 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 11 162, after 81 new cases were reported, all cases being local cases. The total number of recoveries went up to 9 324 following 64 new recoveries. Active cases went up to 1 532. The death toll now stands at 306, following 1 newly reported death.
As Zimbabwe appears to be in the thick of the second wave of COVID-19 cases, we highlight, with grave concern, reports indicating that nurses, who had disagreed with the directive issued by the Permanent Secretary of Health and Child Care, Air Commodore Dr Jasper Chimedza, to write letters of apology in order to retain their standing on the Government payroll. The Ministry of Health and Child Care had cancelled flexi-hours for nurses and ordered the resumption of a 40-hour working week in October 2020. Resisting nurses were subsequently struck off the payroll for failing to report for duty. The circumstances are gravely concerning and deeply problematic.
We note with concern that at present two court cases under the numbers HC6507/20 and HC7099/20 indicate that on both occasions, the High Court has ruled that nurses were entitled, as a matter of right, to continue with the flexible working hour system.
We note reports of letters of apology from various institutions, including but not limited to Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, where 458 nurses out of 548 nurses have written letters of apology. Nurses at United Bulawayo Hospital are in the process of writing letters of apology to the Minister of Health and Child Care, General (Rtd) Dr Constantino Chiwenga, pleading their case and asking to be reinstated on the government payroll.
We are accordingly calling for the respect of the rights of nurses and the respect for the rights of workers as protected by the constitution.
- We call for the full respect of the Court rulings in both letter and spirit and to ensure that government operates with an abundance of restraint and caution in addressing the rights of workers.
- We remain gravely concerned that nurses, of whom the majority are women, and where women have very limited representation in policymaking in the health sector overall, are not placed in a context of having to submit to unfair and unjust conditions by virtue of power imbalances that undermine their constitutionally protected rights.
Critical Emerging Issue
Increase in COVID-19 in Schools
We note the recent reports of 32 pupils testing for COVID-19 at Dadaya High School in Zvishavane, forcing the school to shut down for non-examination classes. The ever-increasing cases of COVID-19 in schools are an ongoing cause for concern, which requires a review of measures and strategies to minimize the spread of COVID-19, amongst pupils, teachers and ancillary staff. We are concerned particularly by the inadequate preparedness measures in place in the education sector to respond to COVID-19, including access to water and sanitation services, despite teachers and the public continuously raising concerns about this.
- We therefore urge the Parliament of Zimbabwe to call the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to order and to demand accountability from the Executive on the COVID-19 situation in schools.
Poor adherence to COVID-19 by Public Transport operators
We continue to bring under the spotlight the public transport operators, engaging in both long and short distances. We are deeply concerned by the complete relaxation of COVID-19 measures on the buses, particularly in this fast-approaching festive season where we are likely to experience an increase in travellers, travelling from one area to another for the Christmas holidays. This is especially worrying in the context of the increased cases of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe and concerned with the low testing rates.
We note with concern reports from travellers indicating the high level of inconsistencies in ensuring sanitisation on buses. Whilst we note that there is high adherence in requesting passengers to have masks, it does not translate to requests that passengers actually wear those masks.
Further, there are clear inconsistencies in providing sanitizers prior to boarding of buses and even usage of sanitizers during journeys that often are over 3-hours.
- We call for increased enforcement of COVID-19 measures on public transport to ensure that we reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 domestically due to travel.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe