289 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as of 11 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 22 297, after 820 new cases were reported, all cases are local cases and 389 cases are from Harare alone and the second highest case count is 133 cases from Mashonaland East. Active cases go up to 8 556. The total number of recoveries stands at 13 213, following 631 new recoveries. The death toll now stands at 528, after 21 new deaths were recorded.
The 8th day of the 2nd hard lockdown in Zimbabwe, and we commend the initiative of central government through the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works to undertake a public sanitization program for public areas in Harare Metropolitan Province. We applaud the efforts in the past two days to ensure that highly congested public spaces including transport hubs are sanitised. We urge the sanitization program to include transport pick up points which are well known and utilised to communities that surround the metropolis. We further urge the Ministry to undertake a similar exercise in other provinces to support the efforts of district taskforce teams facing difficulties in responding the multifaceted needs at grassroots at local authority level.
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 hydroxychloroquine, 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.
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 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 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