280 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 2 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 14 491, after 407 new cases were reported, all are local cases. Active cases go up to 2751. The total number of recoveries stands at 11 363, following 16 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 377, after 8 new deaths were recorded.
As the country records the highest new case count and the second-highest number of COVID deaths recorded, we commend the announcement of the stricter lockdown. Reports of COVID-19 cases increase as do the reports of COVID-19 in hospital communities’ increase and in the wake of these increases lies concerns regarding the rate of increase in hospitalisation rates of COVID-19 patients. We note with concern the reports indicating that on one hand, several COVID-19 hospitals are at full capacity, cost ranging between US$ 2 500 to US$5000, the shortage of ventilators and on the other hand that there are available hospitals ready for admission.
- We call upon the Government to publish formally the Zimbabwe COVID-19 hospitalisations rate.
- We call upon the Government of formally publicize the status of the COVID-19 response capacity in hospitals regarding in particular availability of oxygen to bed ration and ventilator availability.
These formal statistics are in the public interest.
- Whilst we acknowledge the announcement of the stricter Lockdown, we call upon the enforcement agencies to refrain from the usage of excessive force but ensure human rights responsiveness in the execution of their duties.
- We reiterate the call for consistency in enforcement and equal treatment before the law in regards to enforcement of COVID-19 regulations.
We call for vigilance and strengthening of the violence against women and girls national response systems. We remain concerned about weak state coordination and collaboration to ensure that violence against women and girls is funded and responded to directly and rapidly.
We note that whilst the criminal courts remain open as listed in the essential series designation the entire domestic violence value chains must be supported cohesively to ensure the next 30 are not a pandemic within a pandemic and demonstrate the response to lessons learnt from the first hard lockdown.
Critical Emerging Issues
As Zimbabwe seeks to balance the need to lockdown the COVID-19 infections whilst protecting livelihoods the critical socio-economic enabler, public transport, remains at the centre of a strong and coordinated response.
- We call upon the expansion of ZUPCO public transport.
We continue to critique the efforts of government of restructure the public transport sector in the midst of the pandemic, and we continue to call for increased public services to reach all communities equitably.
- We call for new measures, innovations and increase of public transport vehicles on the road to reduce transport transit points which are super spreader points.
- We call for sanitisation of public spaces including transport transit points to reduce the transmission of the disease in the generality of the public.
- We call upon the enforcement of sanitisation of public transport vehicles and the transport transit points
Beitbridge Community and COVID-19
We highlight reports regarding the increased congestion at Beitbridge Border Post in Beitbridge Town once more. As travellers are returning to South Africa post the festive break, congestion has arisen due to increased traffic. We note the reduced border hours from 24 hours to 12 hours as the border now effectively operates from 6am to 10pm for ordinary passengers and non-essential goods. We note with concern however that the measures are causing backlogs and congestion in the border areas and in the surrounding town. In the context of the heat and long waiting hours, the strain on families, the elderly and the vulnerable.
- We urge travellers to take heed of the reduced border operating hours and consider planning their return trips accordingly.
- We call upon Border Officials to actively facilitate the expediting of travellers with young children, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups.
We further note with concern the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Beitbridge community, we highlight reports indicating Beitbridge District Hospital with two doctors, several nurses and other staffers who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- We call for increased provision of adequate PPE.
- We call for the increased provision of social support to healthcare workers who continue to provide critical services under incredibly difficult circumstances.
We further highlight the cases of COVID-19 in 18 students from Mukaro Mission in Gutu and Welton Private Primary School, who stay in Beitbridge Town.
We continue to note the risks that are faced by border officials who are contracting COVID-19 and call for strengthening of the safety protocols in the discharge of their duties in highly congested spaces.
Preparations for COVID-19 Vaccines in Zimbabwe
We enter the New Year amidst the euphoria of the COVID-19 vaccines at various stages of development, approval and distribution. We join the community of nations in celebrating human endeavour in responding rapidly to the global pandemic that had affected and infected millions of citizens across the world and negatively impacted lives and livelihoods at an unprecedented scale.
Whilst we are aware that Zimbabwe is part of various initiatives to bring into the country the COVID-19 vaccines, we reiterate a word against the availability of the same, in the local context. The vaccine is not likely to be reach Zimbabwe in the first half of 2021 and even more unlikely to be widely available to the generality of the public prior to then.
We commend the efforts of the Government at this stage to engage and consult on the best mechanisms to secure vaccines for Zimbabwe
- We urge Government to consult, develop and publicise the plan for vaccine distribution once it arrives in Zimbabwe.
- We call upon Parliament of Zimbabwe to actively pursue its oversight powers in this regard to ensure that the vaccine distribution plan in Zimbabwe is real, tangible, accessible and affordable for the generality of Zimbabwe citizens who have been brought to their knees by the pandemic.
- We call upon the engagement of community and religious leaders to engage in advance to begin the critical foundational work to dispel myths and resistance to vaccines now as opposed to when the vaccines have arrived as this will undermine all efforts in this regard.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe