287 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 9 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 20 499, after 839 new cases were reported, 838 are local cases and 1case is an imported case, 212 cases are from Harare, 60 are from Bulawayo. Active cases go up to 7 577. The total number of recoveries stands at 12 439, following 255 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 483, after 15 new deaths were recorded.
The 6th day of the 2nd hard lockdown in Zimbabwe, and the cases of COVID-19 have breached the 20 000 mark. We urge adherence, action and accountability to stem the tide of the pandemic.
We commend the participation of Zimbabwe in the COVAX vaccine program and the leadership of UNICEF in this regard. We commend in particular the efforts by the COVAX program to secure dosages for 20% of the population, in each participating country by the end of 2021. This program commitment means Zimbabwe could potentially get up to 3.2 million doses under the first phase for an estimated population of 16 million people. We commend the announcement, by the Ministry of Health and Child Care that the first dosages are anticipated in February /March, the establishment of a logistics committee, the conclusion of two assessments in regards to vaccine distribution readiness and the inception of training of healthcare workers on the vaccines.
We also commend the increased pace of testing for COVID-19. We further commend the securing 156 000 testing kits by Government. We 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 largely 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 private health sector – the procurement costs of COVID-19 tests are now as low as USD1.50 and no longer justify the abuse of citizens by the private sector at USD60 per test.
Critical Emerging Issues
Recording and Reporting of COVID-19 Deaths
As the COVID-19 crisis deepens in Zimbabwe, we raise concerns regarding discrepancies in the recording of COVID-19 deaths.
We note with increasing concern discrepancies from families and communities that indicate higher rates of deaths than recorded and reported deaths.
We acknowledge the difference between COVID-19 deaths and COVID-19 Associated Deaths. We further note the practise of recording and reporting COVID-19 deaths,
- We urge the Government to record and report COVID-19 associated deaths to give a fuller picture of the pandemic.
- We urge the Government to strengthen the reporting of COVID-19 pandemic status to Zimbabweans to strengthen the trust in public data and to support the change of behaviour critical to influence citizens to support the stemming of the disease.
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 better 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 occur.
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 issues the 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.
- We call for consistency in enforcement.
- We call for enforcement of COVID-19 regulations to be based on the intent to stop the spread of the infection.
- We call for enforcement in rural, peri-urban and high-density community centres with the fullest respect of the rights of citizens.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe