Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 282 – WCoZ Situation Report

282 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 4 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 15 825, after 564 new cases were reported, all are local cases. 299 cases are from Harare. Active cases go up to 3729. The total number of recoveries stands at 11 716, following 142 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 384, after 4 new deaths were recorded.

Today is the first day of the Level 4 “30 day” Lockdown. We note with concern the political standoff occurring between South Africa and Zimbabwe regarding the processes of Beitbridge Border Post and the movement of Zimbabweans across the border. We further note with concern the current back and forth amongst several levels of officials which unfortunately at present, is not resulting in the protection and promotion of citizens’ rights on either side of the border.

  • We therefore call both countries to order.

We call upon the two countries, which are both member States of SADC and parties to the SADC Treaty and the SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons, to respect their obligations under the SADC Treaty and applicable protocol. 

Whilst we support rigorous and accurate COVID-19 testing and verification at borders, we note with concern the recent development between the two countries, which has seemingly placed additional and undue burdens on citizens, travelling legitimately between the two countries. Citizens are being subjected to anti-migration sentiment under the guise of the COVID-19 management across borders. We remind both parties that COVID-19 regulations are not meant to be an excuse for an unjustifiable blanket ban on migration or the right to movement between the two countries.

We note the deployment of the army and police to enforce the 30-day lockdown in Zimbabwe. While our monitoring today revealed notable compliance with the Level 4 lockdown within the CBDs of most cities and towns, we remain concerned at the deployment pattern that appears to focus on stopping citizens from accessing Central Business Districts only in towns and cities across the country, without much focus on high density communities, rural and peri-urban communities where there is clearly no visible mechanisms to enforce the lockdown in the lockdown. This is concerning as we highlight the significant travel and residence patterns of citizens particularly in high density communities where persons continue to host and hold several social and economic activities without concern of COVID-19 regulation enforcement. This pattern is worrisome as we note several high density communities with notable outbreaks of COVID-19 which clearly require both better adherence to anti-COVID-19 measures and also stronger enforcement of the regulations.

Critical Emerging Issues

Status of COVID-19 and accountability 

We are alarmed by the absence of accurate up-to-date critical information regarding the Status of COVID-19 readiness and response to correlate with the announcement of the lockdown. Whilst we commended, in April 2020, information regarding efforts to address the readiness of health sector and other sector to address COVID-19 in the nation – we have seen a reduction of the good governance practice and respect of the right of the public to access critical information in the context of the national COVID19 pandemic. As the country records the highest new case count and the announcement of the stricter lockdown, we note the reports of COVID-19 in hospital communities’ and the non-availability of hospital beds, oxygen supplies and ventilators in hospitals. We further note with concern the reports indicating that several COVID-19 hospitals are at full capacity with referrals now being made to neighbouring towns /provinces. We also note with alarm the high costs of admission for COVID-19 patients with costs ranging between US$ 2 500 to US$5 000 being requested upfront prior to admission. We are further distressed with reports indicating COVID-19 patients from various towns and provinces being forced to travel long distances whilst very ill and fragile to hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo only to be turned away due to lack of beds. 

We therefore call upon the Government to:

  • Update the nation officially on the COVID-19 hospitalisation capacity in all provinces – this would entail the updates of the works on various health centres that were undertaken right at the beginning of the pandemic 
  • To publicize and make readily available the following information:
    • Oxygen to bed ratio .
    • Ventilator to bed /ventilator to patient ratio.
    • The availability of PPE at all public health facilities.
    • The medical stores available in the country and the current support to the public health sector in this regard.
    • The effort currently being made by Zimbabwe to engage and participate in the various programs globally and bilaterally to secure access to COVID-19 vaccines for Zimbabwe.  
    • Rate of infections in respect of frontline health workers in various centres. 
    • Rate of infections in enforcement officers in particular the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces 

These formal statistics are in the public interest and are part of standard best practice globally and regionally. 

Education sector – Lockdown impracticalities

We note with distress the implications of the lockdown on the education sector. We highlight reports across our networks indicating exam-sitting pupils who were unable to arrive at their respective examination centres due to transport challenges and the enforcement of the lockdown which has negatively impacted their ability to move freely and sit for their exams.

We further highlight the distress, anxiety and barrier to opportunities of young persons seeking to pursue their educational interests and rights within the current limited policy and regulatory support.

We note with concern the reports that teachers serving as invigilators and staffers for examinations centres have allegedly been turned away at various check points due to the fact that teachers are not listed as an essential service despite the regulations providing for the writing of exams.

  • We therefore call out the policy weaknesses and supporting mechanisms which are unduly depriving citizens of their rights during this level 4 lockdown.

Outstanding Issue

COVID-19 Testing in Schools 

We highlight a policy clarification from Government regarding COVID-19 certificates for learners upon the resumption of the in-class schooling, stating that Schools are not permitted to demand COVID-19 certificates from learners as they return to schools upon entry into schooling premises. The clarification reiterates that Schools have already established screening procedures to determine if students may have been exposed to the risk of COVID-19 infections, and that it is that same screening that determines whether a student is required to undergo testing or not.

  • We therefore urge schools and learning centres to desist from communicating demands to parents regarding a demand for COVID-19 certification which is an additional financial burden on households at a cost of USD30 at public hospitals and USD60 at private hospitals remains out of the purview of many.
  • We urge families to avoid unnecessary travel and excursions for children and themselves.
  • We call for adherence to strict COVID protocols to ensure that learners are and remain healthy and not exposed to COVID-19.
  • We call for upgrades to schooling communities’ water and sanitation facilities prior to resumption of schooling. 

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe