288 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 10 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 21 477, after 978 new cases were reported, all are local cases, with 559 from Harare alone. Active cases went up to 8 388. The total number of recoveries stands at 12 582, following 143 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 507, after 24 new deaths were recorded.
The 7th day of the 2nd hard lockdown in Zimbabwe, and the deaths from COVID-19 have breached the 500 mark after slightly under 1000 new cases have been recorded and reported. We also note the recovery rate is down to 58.6% which is almost half. This indicates the severity of the present outbreak which necessitates an active change of behaviour from all of us. We highlight to the public at large the increased number of deaths of COVID-19 as reported by the Ministry of Health and Child Care. We urge the public to take direct immediate actions to protect themselves and their loved ones from contracting the disease.
- We urge local authorities to step up the support to ensure community testing is expanded and contact tracing strengthened, we urge central government to expand the support to secure water and sanitation services and to decentralise enforcement of COVID-19 lockdown measures whilst in full respect of the constitutionally protected rights of citizens.
- We urge Government to put shoulder to the wheel in drawing the country back from the void that threatens the country with the devastating impact of COVID-19 on all fronts.
- We commend the specific express inclusion of Lawyers as part of the Essential Services in the 11th amendment to the COVID-19 regulations, which makes the exemption list go up to 25 permitted essential service providers.
Critical Emerging Issues
Government COVID-19 prison response and protection of inmates
We note reports indicating inadequate measures to ensure the protection of inmates from the raging pandemic and are particularly concerned with reports of inmates arriving at a Harare Court today without any face-masks and adherence to physical distancing. Noting that we are yet to receive a publicized report on the protection of the prison population since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020.
- We therefore urge Government to urgently publicize and implement a comprehensive crisis plan to cater for the rights, needs and safety of detainees in the COVID-19 era. We further urger Government to prioritise vulnerable detainees such as juveniles, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions.
Isolation centres and mandatory centres
In light of the increasing COVID-19 cases which may require isolation and mandatory quarantine, we bring to the fore the status of isolation centres throughout the country. Reports from our networks indicate the non-operation of isolation centres or lack of adequate information on this issue in areas such as Kariba and Bulawayo. Given these challenges, we reiterate the need for the Ministry of Health and Child Care to officially communicate and publicize information regarding the state of isolation centres throughout all Provinces and Districts of Zimbabwe.
- We therefore urge Government to facilitate access to:
- Safe isolation centres that are not overcrowded and also cater to the needs and rights of women such as the availability of sanitary aid and sexual and reproductive health services.
- Appropriate and adequate provision of water and sanitization.
Testing of COVID-19
We 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 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 tests are now as low as USD1.50 and no longer justify the abuse of citizens by the private sector at USD60 per test.
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 practice 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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe