259 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 12 December 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 11 219, after 57 new cases were reported. 56 cases are local and 1 case is imported from Mozambique. The total number of recoveries went up to 9 359 following 35 new recoveries. Active cases went up to 1 553. The death toll now stands at 307, following 1 newly reported death.
We highlight increasingly concerning reports from communities indicating that land borders are fully operational with public buses crossing the borders. The position on the ground differs from public reports indicating that borders are only open to light passenger traffic in private vehicles.
We await clarification on changes in the policy on this matter.
Furthermore, in light of the reality of the travel situation the COVID-19 public awareness messages pertaining to regional travel and the upcoming period of high domestic travel, continue to be characterised by inadequate information and communication advisory support to the public to ensure appropriate social changes to redirect the spread of COVID-19 during the festive season.
Critical Emerging Issues
COVID-19 certificates at entry points
Reports of fake COVID-19 certificates at entry points continue to pour in, while COVID-19 cases remain on the increase from both local and imported transmissions. Concerns have also been raised over the exorbitant fees currently being charged for conducting a PCR test by private health institutions is priced beyond the reach of many.
Approved and reputable centres are charging between US$50 and US$85 for the test, therefore prompting travellers to resort to unauthorised illegal channels for obtaining COVID-19 certificates.
These challenges, if not urgently responded to, will pose difficulties in early detection and surveillance, thus leading to a growing spike of COVID-19 cases, particularly as we approach the festive season, where we are likely to experience heavy traffic of travellers streaming in and out of Zimbabwe.
- We therefore urge the Ministry of Health and Child-Care to implement comprehensive strategies in ensuring that Government testing services are easily accessible to the general public at reasonable and affordable costs.
COVID-19 and the education sector
We note the announcement by Government that schools will open in two phases for the 2021 first term. According to media reports, all classes, with the exception of Form One and Five learners, will commence learning on January 4, with this year’s Ordinary Level examination candidates resuming their exam sittings the following day.
We are particularly concerned by the current context where over 300 pupils, teachers and staff are reported to have tested positive to COVID-19 at nearly 30 schools countrywide in recent weeks, with Dadaya High School being the latest casualty with 32 pupils testing positive, despite Government claiming to have contained the situation
- We therefore query measures put in place to safeguard pupils and staff and to ensure early detection of the disease and potential transmission during the 1st Phase of schools opening in January, especially taking into consideration the fact that pupils and staff will be coming from different geographical areas, in and outside Zimbabwe where they will have potentially been exposed to COVID-19.
- We continue to 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 concern with the low testing rates.
We note with concern reports from travellers indicating the high level of inconsistencies in ensuring sanitisation on the 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 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