Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 283 – WCoZ Situation Report

283 days of the COVID Lockdown , and as of 5 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 17 195, after 1365 new cases were reported, all are local cases of which 777 cases are from Harare.  Active cases go up to 4963. The total number of recoveries stands at 11 813, following 97 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 418, after 34 new deaths were recorded. We highlight that this is the highest day count of COVID-19 new cases and also the highest day-count of deaths ever recorded in Zimbabwe.

We commend the following updates from Government regarding the Health Sector and the COVID-19 preparedness and responsiveness.

  • Availing of cumulatively ZWL$7 Billion by Government to boost the Nation’s responsiveness to COVID-19 through procurement of testing kits and consumables, PPEs and sundries among other things.
  • Rolling out Rapid Antigen testing for symptomatic patients as a means for early detection and decongesting of emergency rooms.
  • Procurement of 156 000 testing kits distributed throughout all Provinces.

In Day 2 of the 2nd hard lockdown in Zimbabwe, we raise alarm concerning reports from our networks of harassment and abuse of women by security officers in Harare. We are therefore urging women to stay vigilant as they carry out necessary movements and errands and to further keep track of the events as they occur when approached by enforcement officers. We are further concerned by the alleged rent-seeking behaviour of certain enforcement officers, which reports have been awash in the media.  

  • We urge women to come forward to the referral pathway of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe with incidents of harassment and abuse for necessary support.
  • We urge our enforcement officers to uphold the Constitution and respect the rights of citizens.
  • We call upon the Government to expedite the facilitation of a progressive Independent Complaints mechanism which must support the strengthening of security services that respect and uphold the constitution in its totality.

We urge women who may find themselves subjected to violence during this crisis to seek support through the following contact details: 

  • Zimbabwe Gender Commission: complaints@zgc.co.zw   or call   0712 899  543  or   0712 899 543
  • WCoZ – 08080230
  • Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association-  08080131;
  • MUSASA- 08080074 

Critical Emerging Issues

Public Service Operations 

We note the efforts within the Public Service to support the lockdown with the implementation of a 30% workforce. We commend the policy measure as its serves to decongest public transport, congested public sector buildings and reduce the probability of infection in the public service.

We note that ministries and agencies are actively being encouraged to operate on digital platforms as a means to continue to provide the most critical services. 

  • We call upon ministries to publicise their respective contact details and information for accessing their respective services to the public. 
  • We reiterate our call for the need to retrofit offices and redesign working spaces in Government ministries and agencies to respond to the COVID-19 era.

COVID-19 Deaths in Zimbabwe

We acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have spared Africa particularly Zimbabwe, as the first wave seemingly did not record high fatality rates. We however wish to challenge the current recording and reporting of COVID-19 deaths in Zimbabwe. As the number of COVID-19 cases increase and so does the death rate. However,  there appear to be serious discrepancies arising from the manner in which COVID-19 deaths are being recorded and reported by the Ministry. Accurate information is important at this juncture, as it provides a fuller and more precise picture of the pandemic in Zimbabwe and will support increased trust in the national statistics and confidence in citizens and in the community of nations. Accuracy in the recording and reporting of deaths will strengthen the capacity of communities, stakeholders and the Government to collaborate effectively to stem the tide of the pandemic.

  • We therefore urge the Ministry of Health and Child Care to fully and accurately  record and report the COVID-19 associated deaths. 

Testing of COVID-19

We note with commendation the increased pace of testing for COVID-19.  We further note that the present lockdown has been precipitated, in part, by higher cases of COVID-19 that have required hospitalisation. We remain concerned however that the testing that is influencing the tracking and tracing of cases is being driven by the social and economic activities of individuals and the private sector. This is further supported by the numbers of persons approaching “private-sector approved’ facilities for COVID-19 tests. We are gravely concerned however of the low and limited rate of testing being undertaken by public hospitals and Government institutions on surveillance. We are accordingly concerned that once the citizens reduce their social and economic activities as per lockdown there will be a correlating drop in testing. 

  • We urge Government to ramp up community testing in public health facilities and institutions.
  • We urge Government to announce the current capacity to test for COVID 19 by public health providers in the country.
  • We call for Government to intervene and secure a reduction in costs of tests in private health sector – we note that the procurement costs of COVID tests are now as low as USD1.50 and thus no longer justify the exorbitant prices being charged by the private sector at USD60 per test.

Outstanding Issues

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 negatively impacted on 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 checkpoints 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 that are unduly depriving citizens of their rights during this level 4 lockdown.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe