291 days of the COVID Lockdown, and as at 13 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 24 256, after 1 017 new cases were reported, all cases are local cases and 419 cases are from Harare alone and the second highest case count is 126 cases from Manicaland. Active cases went up to 10 009. The total number of recoveries stands at 13 658, following 262 new recoveries. The recovery rate continues to drop at 56.3%. The death toll now stands at 589, after 38 new deaths were recorded.
The 10th day of the 2nd hard lockdown in Zimbabwe, and the highest daily new case count of over 1 000 cases a day was recorded yesterday. Secondly, the number of active cases is now alarmingly past the 10 000 case count. In light of the rise in cases and the unrelenting rise in deaths we call for urgent attention to the following.
- Provision of well-equipped isolation facilities. These are necessary to support the communities and citizens who do not have the capacity to self-isolate due to social, cultural economic or other reasons. This is critical to ensure that COVID-19 cases in one family do not extend to other family members and risk the loss of several family members due to the inability to support self-isolation at home.
- We additionally amplify demands for the Government to address inefficiencies in the health system which are glaring in the rise of cases, especially matters leading to delayed diagnosis due to difficult access to diagnostic tests, delayed interventions due to lack of equipment and services and finally the inadequacy of supportive treatments.
- We further recommend the expansion of health services, in particular critical issues on investing in health infrastructure to stem the increased cases of COVID-19. Thus, we await the publication of the status of health facility upgrades nationally.
- We continue to call for decentralisation of specialist services and critical COVID-19 care support.
- We urge the Ministry of Health and Child Care to announce the current capacity to test for COVID-19 by public health providers in the country.
- We call for the Government of Zimbabwe to intervene and secure a reduction in costs of tests in the private health sector – the procurement costs of COVID tests are now as low as USD1.50 and no longer justify the exorbitant costs currently being charged by the private sector at USD60 per test.
Critical Emerging Issues
Infection control strategy
As cases of COVID-19 rise, we are concerned by reports in the public domain wherein communities are not confident and the quality of tracing and testing being undertaken. We, therefore, 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 thus 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.
- We urge Government to focus on domestic containment of infections of COVID by utilising a host of measures, including but not limited to, decongestion, and the provision of food and finances for vulnerable households whose livelihoods have been severely affected by the lockdown.
- We call for a strong testing and tracing capacity of contacts.
- We urge the Ministry of Health and Child Care to step up the plan to provide PPE to frontline healthcare workers, as we cannot collectively contain a pandemic without protecting those interfacing with possible and proven COVID-19 cases.
Social protection during lockdown
We continue to raise the urgent need for Government to ensure that the lockdown is supported with the prioritisation of livelihood support in communities. We highlight that the lockdown can only be successful if citizens do not need to place themselves in danger as they seek to secure food, water and livelihood support. We underscore the fact that the inability of households to respect the lockdown is directly correlated to other persisting deprivation and insecurities they face on a day-to-day basis. The pandemic will continue to bedevil the nation especially, if the measures to increase access to social-economic goods and services, as part of strong social protection systems, are not implemented by Government
- We therefore recommend that Government announces the direct distribution of basic commodities and food in communities similar to the subsidized mealie meal distribution program.
- We call for the expansion of the cash transfer support to vulnerable households and the direct increase of the amounts to support vulnerable households.
- We call for the provision of support for households who are no longer able to sustain themselves due to loss of livelihoods, especially women-led households.
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.
Whilst we commend the sanitization of public spaces, we draw attention to the fact that sanitization of public spaces is a good health practice but according to the WHO does not in fact kill or destroy the COVID-19 virus.
- We urge the sanitization program to include transport pick up points which are well known and utilised by 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 the multifaceted needs at grassroots at local authority level.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe