306 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as at 28 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 32 646, after 342 new cases were reported. All are local cases, of which the highest case tally was recorded in Harare at 83 cases and Manicaland with the second highest tally at 69 cases. We note that the hospitalisation rate on the 28th January 2021 went down to 201 hospitalised cases, 125 mild to moderate cases, 63 severe cases and the number of patients in Intensive Care Units remains at 13. Active cases, went down to 7 067 as the total number of recoveries went up to 24 419 following 732 recoveries. The recovery rate increases to 74.8%. The death toll has risen to 1 160 after 38 new deaths were recorded.
The 24th day of the 30 day 2nd hard lockdown and this lockdown has been extended to 15 February 2021. We note the announcement of lockdown measures to address the second wave of the pandemic. We remain concerned that, despite the announcement of an extension of the lockdown time period, real time measures to curb and contain the community spread of the virus have not been announced. Whilst we applaud the announcement of Genome tracing to determine the possible strains and variants in circulation, we are perplexed that deployment of community mass testing teams have not been included as a proactive step to detect the community prevalence of COVID-19 particularly as asymptomatic cases are being reported. We highlight that community testing is critical in supporting change of behaviour in communities to positively support infection control.
We are gravely disappointed that the announcement today, did not include any measures to support community based isolation centres for persons or communities facing difficulties in isolating after testing positive. We wonder if the government has a true grasp of the difficulties in containing infection control when there are no relief mechanisms put in place to support desperate communities who need to house positive COVID-19 patients who are not able to do so themselves.
We are alarmed that in a period wherein the Government position, both in policy and in practice regarding the effective management and treatment of COVID-19, is under intense public scrutiny and debate, no announcement today was made regarding the usage of Nano Silver and other remedies. We worry that this lapse in addressing key issues regarding COVID-19 in the public domain, severely undermines the trust and confidence of the public to believe that the State has indeed prioritised the needs of citizens and has indeed the capacity to address the pandemic, even on matters wholly under the direction of the State.
We also note that the extension of the lockdown simply means extended economic hardships for vulnerable households. We continue to amplify our concern that the majority of women in Zimbabwe and women-led households are facing the biggest impacts in food security, income loss, and care-giving burdens. We therefore urge Government to expand social safety nets and offset economic impacts for COVID19 and the subsequent hard lockdown.
Critical Emerging Issue
Community management of COVID -19
We remain concerned at the understating of the disease prevalence in communities. We challenge Government to present the community prevalence status of COVID-19 especially now that central hospitals have adopted a position to test all incoming patients for COVID-19. In our network, reports indicate that a high number of persons are testing positive for COVID-19 despite being asymptomatic.
- We urge Government to develop a real community-based plan to manage the pandemic.
- We call for direct support to patients being managed through home-based care.
Based on our experiences and those of our loved ones affected by COVID-19, we question the notion that since only 10% of the cumulative active COVID-19 cases require consistent supervised hospital-based care, COVID-19 can be effectively and efficiently treated at home. Citizens have witnessed rapid deterioration in communities of patients who have had little support or none, in certain instances, from the public health care system. We emphasise that all COVID-19 patients, rich or poor have the right to professionally supervised healthcare. This is particularly so as we have noted from our community reports that home-based care is beyond the capacities of families who are traumatised, untrained and anxious.
Testing of COVID-19
We commend the increased pace of testing for COVID-19. Yesterday alone, a total of 3 666 tests were conducted nationwide. 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 by 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 remain distressed at on-going and persisting community based reports of persons who have not accessed testing, facing a deterioration in their health status without access to healthcare or testing a community level. This threatens the very point of the second lockdown and limits the possibilities of hard-won gains.
- We urge Government to roll out community testing wherein teams of healthcare workers undertake door to door services to screen and test for COVID-19. This is best practice and a direct means to trace outbreaks in communities.
- We urge Government to ramp up community mass testing in public health facilities.
- We further urge Government to intervene and secure a reduction in costs of tests in private health sector – the procurement costs of COVID-19 tests are now as low as USD 1.50 and no longer justify the abuse of citizens by the private sector at USD 60 per test.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe