267 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 20 December 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 12 325, after 174 new cases were reported, all local cases. Active cases therefore went up to 1 981. The total number of recoveries stands at 10 024, following 40 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 320, following 2 new deaths.
We note, with growing concern, reduced media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe. We are aware that COVID-19 fatigue is not only in communities but also in duty bearers, the private sector and in the media and information community. The reduction in media coverage and the fatigue related to COVID-19 reportage is occurring as we continue to endure the second wave of infections which appears to be stronger than the first wave.
Cognisant of the key role played by the media in addressing matters of national concern;
- We call upon the media to remain vigilant to the pandemic in Zimbabwe.
- We call upon the editors and respective newsrooms to continue to prioritise the coverage and reporting of COVID-19 as we face difficulties in navigating the curve of infections over a festive period which risks being a super spreader period.
Critical Emerging Issues
Increased demand for public transport
We highlight concerns regarding the alarming number of citizens who have elected to travel for the festive period placing a phenomenal demand on the national transport system.
We continue to note with alarm the reduced adherence to COVID-19 protocols in ZUPCO buses and in inter-provincial buses which are notably demonstrating reduced concern and compliance with ensuring passengers sanitise their hands and tests for temperature upon embarkation.
We note with growing concern at the high number of the commuting public who are waiting for transport in congested transport depots and pick up points, in large crowds for long protracted periods often with limited adherence to mask wearing.
We note further with distress that the shortage of transport continues to have real time safety and security concerns for women who are seeking travel to return home or to travel out of town as the reduced access to transport increases their vulnerabilities.
- We call for a review of the public transport COVID-19 enforcement measures at pick-up and drop off points.
- We call for the increase of public transport providers to reduce the congestion in public transport buses and public transport nodes which are potential super spreader sites.
- We call for the adherence to COVID-19 measures by the commuting public to exercise the greatest level of responsibility in protecting themselves and protecting others.
Families and communities facing difficulties in altering festive period traditions
We note with concern reports that families and communities in rural communities are yet to accept the reality of COVID-19 requires a change in traditions and social behaviour. Reports indicate that families are not easily accepting that the festive period may be commemorated without the full participation and presence of all family members.
We are fully aware of customs and traditions that call on communities to ensure the full participation of the kinsmen and women and that propose changes to such critical social activities may disrupt community social process, however we seek to remind communities of the importance of seeking to save lives and calling for understanding and flexibility to ensure that the behaviour change in communities does not place communities at increased of contracting COVID-19.
- We call upon our community leaders, traditional Leaders and all social actors to reinforce and reiterate the message that the festive season will be different from those in the past in order to save lives, protect the fragile healthcare systems and protect communities
Fake COVID-19 test certificates and unauthorised laboratories
There is a growing concern regarding COVID-19 test results being illegally issued to travellers by unqualified and unauthorised persons at some Border entry points. This is particularly distressing in an operating context where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, with Surveillance teams working hard to contain the situation. 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 so 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.
- We urge travellers to be vigilant and desist from conduct that places not only their individual lives, but those of others too, at risk. Travellers and citizens at large should get tested for COVID-19 at properly and legally designated points and institutions.
- We commend and urge enforcing agents to be on the look-out for unscrupulous individuals who partake in such risky and reckless behaviour.
- We further urge citizens to make concerted efforts in complying with COVID-19 regulations so as to ensure a low risk of exposure to the disease.
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 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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe