272 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 25 December 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 12 880, after 94 new cases were reported, all local cases. Active cases went up to 2 071. The total number of recoveries stands at 10 468, following 154 new recoveries. The death toll stands at 341, after 2 new deaths were recorded.
Critical Emerging Issues
Handling of returnees utilising illegal entry points
While appreciating concerted efforts being made to limit the potential risk of spreading COVID-19 by some returnees who are attempting to gain entry without being tested or subjected to quarantine, we, however, raise concern over 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 to quarantine.
- We therefore urge health authorities to ensure the 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.
Management of COVID-19 deaths and burials
As the COVID-19 death statistics have continued to rise, we highlight the WHO COVID-19 Body Management and Burial Guidelines for COVID-19 persons which seek 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 and who are supported with sufficient PPE. Thus communities should exercise caution during burials.
Suspension of travellers’ screening at Beitbridge
In an effort to decongest the Beitbridge Border following the death of at least 15 outbound travellers seeking to cross into Zimbabwe, media reports indicate that South Africa has suspended COVID-19 screening at the Border. This is a very distressing development, and particularly worrying in this current context wherein COVID-19 cases are spiralling out of control both in South Africa and Zimbabwe, amidst report of a new deadlier COVID-19 variant, “501.V2 variant” with a greater speed of transmission.
- We continue to urge the Government of Zimbabwe to protect the efforts made in the health sector thus far and protect the fragile frontline sector from additional pressures.
- We further recommend steps to prevent the new variants from entering the country, despite South Africa’s relaxation on COVID-19 screening for outbound travellers.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe