266 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 19 December 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 12 151, after 104 new cases were reported, 98 new cases are local cases and 6 cases are imported cases recorded from Mozambican drivers. Active cases therefore went up to 1 849. The total number of recoveries stands at 9 984, following 90 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 318, following 2 new deaths.
We commend the announcements over the weekend, by several prominent entertainment promoters, who have indicated a closure of their venues and cancellation of tours and or events, which had been slated for the festive period. We commend these players in the creative industry who have made such calls in order to save lives whilst losing the economic opportunities for their own livelihoods which the events presented. We commend the efforts to abide by the reviewed COVID-19 regulations in the sector.
- We call for the delivery of support to the creative industry which has been hard hit and yet the uptake of the COVID-19 support grants to support artists, which has been slow in rolling out to the affected community.
We accordingly call upon individual citizens and communities to be reminded that the worst is not yet over in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe. We are fully cognisant of the difficulties presented by 2020 that may result in communities disregarding COVID-19 regulations in order to celebrate life with friends and family. We urge communities to note that the act of keeping family gatherings small and maintaining the family quarantine bubbles are critical in reducing the spread of the virus and decreasing opportunities for potential loss of good health and in some cases loss of life.
Respecting COVID-19 safety measures is the best gift to give this festive season.
Critical Emerging Issues
Mpilo Central Hospital Healthcare workers
We highlight concerns regarding the alarming number of cases recorded at Mpilo Central Hospital with a record of 74 COVID-19 cases over the past four days. Bulawayo province presently accounts for over 32% of the 620 new cases recorded in Zimbabwe over the same four day period. We note that the cases include a nine-month-old baby and 14 staff members infected. We continue to highlight reports indicating that the infected staff members operate from the Mpilo’s Persons under Investigation (PUI) ward for COVID-19 and their other infected colleagues operate from the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory which undertakes COVID-19 tests.
- We accordingly continue to call for the on-going need for healthcare workers to access adequate PPE supplies.
- We call for real-time support to the conditions of service for healthcare workers who are facing an increased prevalence of COVID-19 in their respective institutions and communities
- We remind Government that as the second wave endures, healthcare workers remain the lead guards, in ensuring the health sector, as fragile as it is, maintains a level of viability to offer support to patients.
Management of COVID-19 deaths and burials
As the COVID-19 deaths statistics have continued to rise, we emphasize the proper handling of burials of COVID-19 bodies. We highlight the WHO COVID-19 Body Management and Burial Guidelines for COVID-19 persons which seek to strive to ensure that bodies are managed in a manner that does not expose those who are the body to the potential of infection. The WHO COVID-19 guidelines further make specific references to cultural rites, which may include contact such as touching and kissing the body and are not permitted. Noting the increasing complacency and relaxation of the general public on COVID-19 prevention:
- We call upon the Government to strengthen awareness raising efforts on the safety measures to be taken during burials to ensure the communities are well prepared in advance.
- We further reiterate that the preparation of the bodies must be managed by persons who are adequately trained to handle such cases.
Community Mass Testing
While noting the rising statistics of active cases, and the increased complacency amongst the general public, we recognize the need for an advanced test strategy which ensures community mass testing and contact tracing, especially during the festive season. 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 call for stronger testing support for communities with schools that have learners and teachers testing positive for COVID-19 to ensure community-based support for COVID interventions and real-time tracing of the reach of the pandemic nationally.
- 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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe