274 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 27 December 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 13 077, after 114 new cases were reported, all local cases. Active cases, therefore, went up to 2 135. The total number of recoveries stands at 10 593, following 74 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 349, after 8 new deaths were recorded.
We applaud the Ministry of Health and Child Care for publishing a list of nation-wide authorised COVID-19 testing laboratories, which include 29 Privately owned laboratories, 26 Government-owned laboratories and 3 Research/NGO laboratories. This comes at a time when the Ministry has raised a red flag over the operations of unauthorised laboratories conducting COVID-19 tests. The Ministry has also warned the general public against seeking COVID-19 testing services from unauthorised laboratories, emphasizing that any results from an unauthorised service provider shall be regarded as invalid.
We continue to highlight advice from various Health experts outlined in the media, urging members of the public not to let their guard down on COVID-19 prevention measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Media reports show that Health experts have further warned that the Nation may suffer untold consequences if citizens fail to comply and uphold Covid-19 prevention measures, particularly in the current context wherein there is reportedly a new and deadlier Covid-19 variant which is yet to be understood. We, therefore, call for vigilance on the part of citizens to ensure adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures and safety protocols.
Critical Emerging Issues
Fake COVID-19 test certificates and unauthorised laboratories
There are growing concerns and reports of 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 which are 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.
- We urge travellers to be vigilant and desist from conduct which 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 the enforcing agents to be on the look-out for unscrupulous individuals who partake in risky and reckless behaviour.
- We further urge citizens to make concerted efforts in complying with COVID-19 regulations so as to ensure low risk of exposure to the disease.
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 distance journeys. We are deeply concerned by the complete relaxation of COVID-19 measures on the buses, particularly in this operating environment where there is an increase in travellers, travelling from one area to another for the festive holidays amidst increased cases of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe and low testing rates.
We note with concern reports from travellers indicating high levels of inconsistencies in ensuring sanitisation on the buses. Further, whilst we note that there is high adherence in requesting passengers to produce masks before boarding, our monitoring reveals non-use of the masks by passengers aboard.
Further, there are clear inconsistencies in providing sanitisers prior to the boarding of buses and even usage of sanitisers during journeys that often are over 3 hours long.
- 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.
- We further urge mass community testing to ensure early detection and containment of the pandemic
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe