Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 284 – WCoZ Situation Report

284 days of the COVID Lockdown , and as at 6 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 17 804, after 610 new cases were reported, all are local cases of which 165 cases are from Harare. Active cases go up to 5047. The total number of recoveries stands at 11 966, following 153 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 431, after 13 new deaths were recorded.

Day 3 of the 2nd hard lockdown in Zimbabwe and we continue to call for vigilance and strengthening of the violence against women and girls national response systems. We remain concerned about the 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 days are not a pandemic within a pandemic and demonstrate the response to lessons learnt from the first hard lockdown.

We amplify the calls to Government to urgently attend to the rehabilitate and expand health facilities and services. Whilst we acknowledge the efforts made by Government thus far we continue to call on the state, to prioritise the protection of our already fragile health sector. We fully acknowledge and commend the cumulative release of ZWL$7 billion dollars to; “to motivate and employ more health workers, procure testing kits, PPEs, sundries, sanitizers and to improve infrastructure.”

  • We continue to call for demonstrable protection and prioritisation of the essential services sector, in particular, the frontline healthcare workers.

We highlight that as the effects of the pandemic hit Zimbabwe hard, the healthcare workers are the critical glue to the capacity of Zimbabwe to sustain itself in the face of a pandemic and must be protected.

  • We call for the prioritisation of remuneration and improved working conditions for healthcare workers.
  • We call for the aggressive pursuance of the Personal Protective Equipment for the health sector. 
  • We call for the resourcing the rehabilitation and expansion of health services and facilities. 

We are concerned accordingly by the on-going calls for PPE’s by various health care workers in multiple institution across the country. We highlight the actions of the healthcare workers today in Harare Hospital who sought to amplify the lack of PPE’s and the implications of those shortages on the ability to discharge their duties.

  • We call for consistency and stabilisation of the supply of PPE’s.

Critical Emerging Issues

Social Protection during Lockdown

We continue to raise the urgent need for Government to ensure that the lockdown is supported by the provision of life and livelihood support in communities. We highlight the infrastructure to deliver to social protection in the country is present but needs prioritisation, coordination, transparency and accountability to ensure undue hardship on citizens are directly ameliorated. 

We highlight that the lockdown can only be successful if citizens do not need to place themselves in danger as they seek to secure food, water and livelihood support. We call for Government to announce the direct distribution of food in communities similar to the subsidized mealie meal distribution program. We call for the expansion of this program to include other food items beyond mealie meal alone; 

  • We call for the expansion of the cash transfer support to vulnerable households and the direct increase of the amounts to support vulnerable households.
  • We call for the provision of support for households who are no longer able to sustain themselves due to loss of livelihoods.

We highlight to government that the inability of households to respect the lockdown is directly correlated to other persisting deprivation and insecurities they face on a day to day basis. The pandemic will continue to bedevil the nation especially, if the measures to increase access to social-economic goods and services, as part of strong social protection systems, are not implemented by Government.

  • Government is urged to strengthen the capacity of the citizens to comply with the lockdown.

We critique the insistence to lockdown and provide a hard lockdown wherein there are no ameliorative measures for communities on basic services such as food and water.

Beitbridge Standoff 

We continue to highlight 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.

Protection of the Education Sector 

We highlight reports of 50 School heads who have tested positive for COVID-19 who were part of the teams of teachers providing services for the exam classes which are exempted from lockdown. We highlight the lack of PPE provided for teachers and yet teachers are expected to represent themselves for work. We highlight the continuing disconnect in Government policies and measures to meet the national targets of the lockdown. We are further concerned about reports of decisions in the judiciary that did not consider, as urgent, applications to bring the need to provide PPE’s to teachers prior to administering exams as non-urgent matters. We are concerned by the real-time gaps in the measures to deliver on government policy as they appear to rely on individuals to deliver and implement national policies.

This position is untenable.

  • We call for the urgent provisioning of PPE to schools and learning centres.
  • We additionally, call for the strengthening of water and sanitation systems to schools equitably across the nation. 
  • We further call for Government to directly resource the capacity of schools to operate in the COVID-19 era.
  • We call for engagement with the entire education sector players progressively and towards sustainable solutions.

Outstanding Issue

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 driving 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 driven by the public sector initiatives on surveillance of COVID-19 themselves. 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. The lockdown period must be a period of actual reduction of infections not a drop-in testing.

  • We urge Government to ramp up community testing in public health facilities.
  • 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 the private health sector – the procurement costs of COVID tests are now as low as USD1.50 and no longer justify the abuse of citizens by the private sector at USD60 per test.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

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