Zimbabwe has recorded a sharp surge in Covid-19 infections, in December 2021 and in an attempt to halt the virus Zimbabwe’s Health and Child Care Minister, Constantino Chiwenga, on Saturday 2 January 2021, announced a horde of strict lockdown regulations. The government has forced Zimbabwe back into a hard lockdown, a ban on all non-essential business, social gatherings, intercity travel, and one of the strictest curfews accompanied by violation of fundamental rights and freedoms. The coronavirus second wave came at a time where Zimbabwean hospitals and clinics are severely under-resourced and medical personnel are always on strike citing lack of PPE clothes and poor remuneration.
In Zimbabwe, the COVID-19 pandemic is surfacing against the backdrop of a difficult macro-economic environment, climatic shocks (the recent cyclone Idai which hits Gutu district and Bikita, and drought in Mwenezi and Chivi districts).
The preliminary impacts show that the country’s healthcare system is likely to be stretched further beyond its capacity. In addition, the public health response measures to contain the pandemic have shown that, while necessary, they have also led to a disruption of economic activities and livelihoods resulting in increased poverty and vulnerability. More crucially, the pandemic is affecting socio-economic and gender groups differently with women, children, poor households, persons with disabilities, and people living with HIV and AIDS most adversely affected. Without urgent collective responses to address the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering will escalate, endangering lives and livelihoods for years to come.
The government just introduced a 30-day lockdown without providing social nets to the citizens particularly the most vulnerable and the disabled. The pandemic and the restrictions are affecting every sector of the Zimbabwean economy and all segments of society but with differential impacts depending on age group, gender, disabilities, socio-economic status, geographic location, etc. In Zimbabwe, most people are youths who are unemployed, and some engaged in the informal economy. With the lockdown, it results in job losses. The government should ensure that support is crucial for youths as an asset to the development of the country. Many youths and young women in Masvingo province were relying on cross-border trading to the neighboring country South Africa. All these families’ source of livelihood was cut and absence of social support or grants from the government. Despite the restriction, it is now a cat and rat situation in Masvingo town and Chiredzi and other growth points like Chivi, Gutu, and Zaka where police spend the day running after vendors.
Household food insecurity is likely to worsen as a result of a decline in the economy. Children and women in need of basic yet essential services are at risk of not receiving them due to reduced access. Government announced a delayed opening as it was deemed unsafe for children to return to school and only exams classes were allowed to finish off examinations. Despite the delayed physical opening of educational institutions, physical private extra lessons are being conducted and few are being conducted online.
However, it is primarily urban and middle-class households who are able to this e-learning and private extra lesson, with many in low income rural and high-density urban and peri-urban areas being currently left behind due to lack of digital equipment and support structures. If this situation of skewed access to education continues for a prolonged period of time it could aggravate inequalities in education outcomes, poverty reduction and eventually, poor human development. There is a need for affordable, accessible digital infrastructure tied with digital skills to rural and remote areas for universal digital access will surely force ahead of Covid-19. In urban areas and growth points, there is a serious water challenge coupled with high charges at the end of the month. Many residents are failing to pay the bills as their source of income was closed. Urbanites are relying on rainwater and boreholes.
Masvingo COVID-19 Update 18 January 2020
243 tests were done. 30 are positive (Masvingo 13, Mwenezi 2, Chiredzi 4, Gutu 1, Zaka 4, and Bikita 6). 3 deaths (Masvingo 1, Chiredzi 1, Gutu 1). Cumulative positive 1702. Recovered 1310. Total deaths 43 and active cases 349.
Source: Masvingo Centre for Research and Development (MACRAD)