Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 290 – WCoZ Situation Report

290 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as at 12 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 23 239, after 942 new cases were reported, all cases are local cases and 401 cases are from Harare alone and the second highest case count is 155 cases from Manicaland. Active cases go up to 9 292. The total number of recoveries stands at 13 396, following 183 new recoveries. The recovery rate continues to drop at 57.6%. The death toll now stands at 528, after 21 new deaths were recorded.

The 9th day of the 2nd hard lockdown in Zimbabwe, and we urge a shift in strategy pertaining to the COVID-19 cases which are on the rise. We draw attention to the increase in domestic COVID-19 cases and highlight that COVID prevalence in our communities is high and not adequately understood due to low testing patterns. We call for a focus on containing the domestic spread of COVID-19.

We urge a complete re-prioritisation of mass-based community testing and mass-based community tracing of contacts.

As cases of COVID-19 spiral out of control,  we are concerned by reports in the public domain wherein communities are not confident in the efficacy and quality of tracing and testing currently being undertaken.

  • We urge Government to focus on the domestic containment of infections of COVID-19 by utilising a host of measures, including but not limited to, decongestion, provision of food and finances for vulnerable households who currently cannot undertake any income-generating activities under the lockdown, robust testing and tracing capacity of contacts and provision of PPE.
  • We recommend that Government undertake inspections (as had been announced) of the private sector essential services who are exempted from the lockdown ban,  to determine the levels of provision of PPE in those institutions. 
  • We urge the private sector to ensure strict adherence to safety protocols and guidelines to minimize employees’ risk of exposure to the virus.
  • We call for Government to resist the temptation to rely on donations and development partners, but rather unveil direct treasury support, at a level commiserate with the pandemic, to the lives of its own citizens, which is a priority mandate of the State; in particular to address the direct Treasury support for the mass provision of PPE, mass community testing, and treatment therapies including hospital beds, oxygen and ventilators to public hospitals directly.

We commend Government for announcing the finalisation of the draft COVID-19 vaccine framework and plan.  We await its publicization. 

Critical Emerging Issues

Detainees and Prisoners

Numerous studies have demonstrated that although prisoners the world over have always been one of the most vulnerable groups in society, their vulnerability has been exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This holds true, particularly as we note reports from our networks highlighting the despairing situation of arrested persons and detainees in Zimbabwe. We are alarmed by reports of alleged lack of sanitisers in police stations and poor sanitary conditions in holding cells. Distressing reports further indicate inadequate provision and issuance of masks in such conditions. In light of this, we remain concerned at the measures currently being implemented to ensure the protection of these vulnerable groups.

We are further, concerned by the outstanding reports of the status of COVID-19 in the detainee and prison population. 

  • We continue to call out Government to provide the nation with an update on the status of COVID-19 in law enforcement officers including in the correctional services.
  • We call for the Prison Inspectorate to conduct a special series of COVID-19 assessment and visits to holding cells and prisons.
  • We continue to await the adoption of robust measures to ensure that this vulnerable population is not subjected to undue hardship.

Sanitization of public spaces in Harare 

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 of the past two days to ensure 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 urge the Ministry to undertake a similar exercise in other provinces to support the efforts of district taskforce teams facing difficulties in responding to the multifaceted needs at grassroots at local authority level.

Outstanding Issue

Approved treatment regime of COVID-19 

We raise growing concerns 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 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 fragilities of the health care sector and the ever-present dangers of communities relying on dangerous self-medication;

We 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 call upon the Ministry of Health and Child Care to facilitate a policy announcement 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 announcements are critical to the general members of the public, who increasingly are 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.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

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