312 days of the COVID-19 lockdown, and as of 4 February 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 34 174, after 207 new cases were reported. All are local cases of which the highest case tally was recorded in Bulawayo at 58 cases. Harare came in second highest with a new case tally of 54 cases. We note that the hospitalisation rate on the 3 February 2021 was 171 hospitalised cases, asymptomatic 10, 89 mild to moderate cases, 59 severe cases and 13 cases in Intensive Care Units. Active cases went down to 5 124 as the total number of recoveries went up to 27 759 following a continued increase in recoveries by 368 recoveries. The recovery rate continues to increase and is now at 81.2%. The death toll has risen to 1 288 after 19 new deaths were recorded.
The 28th day of the 2nd hard lockdown and we note Government’s latest communication highlighting that COVID-19 vaccines shall be administered to citizens for free. While commending this clarification, we continue to call for transparency regarding the source of the COVID-19 vaccine funds, and the vaccine roll-out plan thereof.
Critical Emerging Issue
Comprehensive response to public on access to COVID-19 vaccines
Whilst we acknowledge various efforts to engage with the public and share the readiness and capacity of the Government in regards to the on-boarding of COVID-19 vaccines in Zimbabwe, we continue to raise questions regarding unanswered or unclear issues.
We note with concern the discrepancies in the public domain regarding the funding by the Treasury to secure COVID-19 vaccines. We note the announcement by Government that it has managed to mobilise USD100 million to support the procurement of 20 million doses for the COVID-19 vaccination to vaccinate 10 million people – approximately 60% of the Zimbabwean population – to meet herd immunity targets. However, we also note the remarks by the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Mangwiro, who in a Live interview on ZTN on the 4th of February 2021, remarked that the Treasury was marshalling “about USD 25million” to support the procurement of the vaccines.
- We call upon government to clarify exactly how much Treasury is committing to spend and the exact amounts marshalled by development partners and the types of funding arrangements being entered into to support access to vaccines.
We further note the finalisation of the National Plan for COVID-19 vaccination. However we remain concerned that the announcement of the existence of the plan remains to be publicised. Additionally we note with concern key health sector institutions that do not seem to be aware of the plan at such a late hour.
- We call upon Government to make public the full COVID-19 vaccines plan urgently, as opposed to only elements of the plan.
We note further problematic issues regarding vaccination access. Whilst we appreciate the remarks that vaccines will be free in Zimbabwe, this does not fully address the question of access. We are concerned about the ability of vulnerable groups to access vaccines and factors determining vulnerability in COVID-19 vaccinations. We remain concerned that the queue to accessing vaccines will be grossly inequitable if not clearly spelled out.
- We call for specifics on immigrants, refugees, prisoners, persons and families living on the street, persons with disabilities groups and timelines for access to vaccines.
- We further call for free access to vaccines to be maintained both in principle and in administrative processes.
We note the national capability to manage mass vaccination programs. We note the success of the last mass vaccines program, namely the Cholera 2018 vaccination process, that saw 1.8 million people vaccinated. However, in the absence of a public comprehensive plan, we remain doubtful of the capacity of the Government to vaccinate 10 million citizens even over a period of the remaining 10 months of the year.
- We call upon government to give detailed specifics of vaccination plans, including the various stages to engender trust in the public regarding the capacity of the state in this regard.
We note the assurances regarding the cold chain capacity of vaccines in Zimbabwe. However the question regarding the maximum temperature manageable by the existing cold chain capacity of immunisation in Zimbabwe remains unclear. This is critical in guiding the public’s understanding of potential vaccine candidates to be availed in Zimbabwe
- We call for the direct response of the maximum temperature manageable in the Zimbabwe cold chain immunisation system.
We note the announcement regarding multiple sources for the vaccine for Zimbabwe. However, we remain concerned still at the failure to indicate any potential timelines for vaccines to actually arrive in Zimbabwe. We further note that only the COVAX vaccine has a guideline, however, there remains no guideline to support anticipated vaccine access for Zimbabwe.
In light of unclear commitments of vaccines programs in Zimbabwe and the lack of clarity on payment – that is if any that have been made to vaccines facilities – and the progress in securing vaccines with the support of bilateral engagements, we fundamentally doubt the efficacy and efficiency of the much vaunted vaccines plan.
- We call for the Government to urgently advise the nation of the stages of access to be anticipated in securing the vaccines in real terms.
Increased publication of full COVID-19 Data
We highlight the need to strengthen the reporting of COVID-19 statistics in full. We are concerned by the under-testing and underreporting that is part of the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to highlight the gaps in reporting regarding direct COVID-19 deaths and COVID associated deaths.
We continue to note the lack of complete daily information regarding the hospitalisations rate.
We echo the Members of Parliament who are questioning the low rate of hospitalisation due to poor facilities and lack of trust in the health system.
- We continue to call for a robust and full disclosure of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe to the generality of citizens.
Reduction in testing
We note with concern the significantly reduced testing that has occurred over the weekend, in particular, a drop of over 2 000 tests less between tests performed on Friday the 29th of January 2021 as opposed to tests performed on the 31st of January 2021. On the 1st of February 2021, there was a post-weekend increase of tests to 2433.
We reiterate concerns regarding sustaining the pace of testing and the expansion of proactive testing in communities that continue to raise distress calls yet without access to tests.
- We sincerely call upon the Government to ensure that testing is on-going and that the rate of COVID cases reported is not dropping due to a drop in testing but rather as a result of infection control.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe