286 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 8 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 19 660, after 985 new cases were reported, 984 are local cases of which 401 cases are from Harare and 1 imported case. Active cases go up to 7008. The total number of recoveries stands at 12 184, following 101 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 468, after 22 new deaths were recorded.
Today marks the 5th day of the 2nd hard lockdown in Zimbabwe, and we raise alarm at the daily new COVID-19 case count which is slightly under a thousand cases. We note, with concern, the spiralling death rate among COVID-19 cases and accordingly support, the announcement by The Ministry of Health and Child Care, that the number of cases of COVID-19 and the spread of COVID-19 cases across the country is indicative of the entire nation being classified as a COVID-19 hotspot.
We commend the usage of the Civil Protection Unit in Government as part of the COVID-19 messaging and information systems through the sharing of SMS messages alerting the nation of the COVID-19 situation in the country.
We urge a strengthening of the decentralised and devolved system of response to the lockdown including the outstanding matter pertaining to the devolved and decentralised issuance of exemption letters to facilitate essential movement.
Critical Emerging Issues
Approved Treatment Regime of COVID-19
We raise growing concern pertaining to the treatment of COVID -19 cases in particular the medications that are approved and or recommended for usage in the treatment of COVID-19 cases. We urge the announcement of a formal guidance by the Healthcare sector leadership of Zimbabwe to allay concerns of reports of medical treatments that are not necessary or not meant for human usage or otherwise. In light of the current fragilities of the health care sector and the ever-present dangers of communities relying on dangerous self-medication; we, therefore, commend the formal warning issued by the Medical Council Association of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) that Ivermectin, a veterinary anti-parasitic drug, must not be prescribed, distributed or used until has the safety and efficacy for human usage has been fully verified and approved.
- We thus recommend that the Ministry of Health and Child Care facilitates a policy announcement and clarification of the recommended medication and treatment. This information is critical to deal with a deluge of actions and information regarding treatment therapies which are raising alarm in communities, specifically:
- The prescription and usage of hydoxychloroquine, azithromycin, prednisolone
- The usage of Probiotics and zinc as part of “emergency Covid19 packs” for mildly symptomatic patients (cost $80).
- The practice of nebulising with Salbutamol (or ionised silver).
The above clarification would be critical to the general members of the public, who are increasingly utilising various media platforms to access information on treatment of COVID-19 as COVID-19 continues to be a burden for home-based care. It is essential therefore, that any concerns regarding approved treatments already being issued are addressed in the public non-medical sector domain, and accordingly that any concerns about medications not yet approved are also discussed in the non-medical sector to ensure the highest levels of collaboration and compliance with efforts to combat COVID-19.
Enforcement Patterns in Rural, Peri-Urban and High Density Community
We note the deployment of the army and police to enforce the 30-day lockdown in Zimbabwe. While our monitoring reveals 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.
There are no visible mechanisms to enforce the lockdown in high density communities, rural and peri-urban communities. 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 stricter adherence to anti-COVID-19 measures and also stronger enforcement of the regulations.
We further note that peri-urban and communities, including growth points, market points and trading centres in rural communities are largely left to their own devices to determine the level of their compliance with COVID-19 regulations. Further, in rural communities, reports of traditional and social ceremonies, events and activities continue to be reported.
Whilst indeed this situation requires increased current, complete and accurate information, to be shared widely with communities on the status of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe, it simultaneously raises the issue of inequalities in deployment and enforcement. The enforcement pattern appears to consider that COVID -19 is only transmissible in urban business centres and that rural communities are somehow immune.
- In light of this, we therefore recommend:
- Enforcement of the lockdown in rural, peri-urban and high-density community centres with the fullest respect of the rights of citizens.
- Consistent enforcement of the COVID-19 regulations based on the intent to stop the spread of the infection.
PPE and Prioritisation of Healthcare Sector
We continue to 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 of the on-going calls for PPE by various health care workers in multiple institutions 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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe