Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 321 – WCoZ Situation Report

321 days of the COVID-19 lockdown and as of 12 February 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases has increased to 35 045 with a reported recording of 96 new cases. All are local cases and the highest case tally was recorded in Harare with 36 cases and Manicaland with the second highest tally at 27 cases. We note that Bulawayo was awaiting testing results from 2 major testing centres whose results are not reflected in the daily tally today. We note that the Hospitalisation rate on the 12th of February 2021 went down to 108 hospitalised cases, 3 asymptomatic, 56 mild to moderate cases, 43 severe cases and 6 cases in Intensive Care Units. Active cases went down to 3 693 as the total number of recoveries went up to 29 959 following a continued increase in recoveries by 329 recoveries. The recovery rate dropped by 0.3% to 85.5%. The death toll has risen to 1 393 after 11 new deaths were recorded.

The 37th day of the 2nd hard lockdown and we highlight that Zimbabweans are well aware of the potential mix of vaccines that a country may utilize to vaccinate the population against COVID-19. That being said, there are issues regarding the vaccine process in Zimbabwe.

We note the procurement of 600 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine by the Government of Zimbabwe. We further note the donation of 200 000 doses of the same vaccine to Government by the People’s Republic of China. We note further the announcements that the first batch of these vaccines will be arriving in Zimbabwe on Monday the 15th of February and will be immediately distributed.

 Whilst we continue to support and encourage efforts to access vaccines for the people of Zimbabwe, we raise several issues that Government must address urgently. 

  • We continue to query the appropriateness of securing vaccines whilst the tracing of variants and mutations of the variants in circulation in Zimbabwe is yet to be completed and further, the efficacy of potential vaccines against said variations and or mutations.

We note with concern that the Zimbabwe National Immunisation Advisory Group – ZIM-NITAG- directly responsible for leading the scientific assessment and evaluation of any vaccines in Zimbabwe – has not led and or driven the procurement of the Sinopharm vaccine through their power to effect recommendations as per their mandate.

  • We continue to call out this weak governance practice that undermines the independence and role of institutions.

We further challenge the potential procurement and donation of the Russian Sputnik vaccine on the same grounds.

Critical Emerging Issue 

COVID-19 measures complimenting lockdowns and vaccination 

We note the imminent announcement of lockdown measures and we call upon the Government to undertake significant steps to support the reduction and stoppage of infection control. We call for measures that will aggressively compliment potential vaccine deployment.

  • We urge concerted efforts to decongest authorised public transport. 
  • We further emphasize the need to re-enforce sanitation measures on public transport services.
  • We call for strengthened support to education centres and schools to access adequate water and sanitation services to support tangible processes regarding the re-opening of physically schooling.
  • We call for expanded community testing to ensure adequate testing and tracing regardless of the onboarding of vaccines.
  • We recommend support to the establishment and sustenance of community-based isolation centres to alleviate the hardships of families and communities that cannot self-isolate.
  • We urge supermarkets and retailers to increase in-store monitoring and increased management of physical distancing at pay points and exits.
  • With the expected return to economic activities underway, we call for the active inspection of private sector premises to ensure the private sector retrofits production lines and respects COVID-19 measures regarding distances and safety.

Conditions and treatment of Patients at Ngomahuru Psychiatric Hospital in Masvingo

We continue to raise alarm over the on-going situation at Ngomahuru Psychiatric Hospital in Masvingo. We are outraged by reports revealing water shortages at the institution for over a month now. This dire situation has forced patients to bathe and source water at a nearby river. We are shocked by the lack of responsiveness and duty of care that the authorities are displaying in letting the issue persist without urgent progressive interventions.

Whichever way we look at it, it is a humanitarian crisis which requires authorities to act swiftly and rapidly. We are outraged by the repeatedly demonstrated neglect of mental health institutions by authorities. 

  • We therefore call to order the Government of Zimbabwe together with its line ministries and departments to immediately direct focus to the humanitarian crisis at Ngomahuru, and execute its constitutionally charged duty to protect and promote the rights of citizens.  
  • We call on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission to intervene and launch an investigation into the persistent human rights crisis at Ngomahuru.  
  • We call for the Parliament of Zimbabwe to fully exercise its oversight mandate in regards Ngomahuru Psychiatric Hospital .

If the authorities cannot provide water to key populations and vulnerable sections of society in this COVID-19 era, where the core message for COVID-19 prevention is centred on water and sanitation, one can only question if at all, the State COVID-19 response takes into account the needs of vulnerable populations.  Psychiatric patients have rights too, and it is the duty of the Government of Zimbabwe and the constitutionally charged Commissions, to protect these rights.

Outstanding Issue

Community Based Isolation Centres

We continue to raise concerns with placing the burden of treatment and management of COVID-19 on communities, particularly, where there are no supportive community-based mechanisms to support the undue and inappropriate home-based care model in effect. Whilst we applaud the opening of a 22-bed isolation centre in Gwanda for use by COVID-19 patients, we accordingly note the delay of establishing this first community isolation centre so late into the COVID-19 crisis wherein the infections were clearly community-based. Therefore, we continue to decry the lack of isolation centres supported by the central government. We continue to cite the fact that management and treatment of COVID-19 in homes does not receive any support including even gloves or PPE, exposing and expanding the risk of infection to communities. In light of the potential mutations to the virus, this continues to be a real danger.

  • We call upon the designation of appropriate centres as community isolation centres and support to those centres. 
  • We urge expediting establishment of community isolation centres in other districts to ensure easy accessibility by communities. 
  • We further emphasize prioritisation of the needs and rights of women including sexual and reproductive health services in isolation centres.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

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