322 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown and as of 13 February 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases has increased to 35 104 with a reported recording of 59 new cases reported. All are local cases, of which the highest case tally was recorded in Bulawayo with 23 cases and Harare with the second-highest tally at 18 cases. We note that the hospitalisation rate on the 13th of February 2021 went down to 101 hospitalised cases, 8 asymptomatic, 56 mild to moderate cases, 34 severe cases and 3 cases in Intensive Care Units. Active cases went down to 3 617 as the total number of recoveries went up to 30 089 following a continued increase in recoveries by 130 recoveries. The recovery rate increased by 0.2% to 85.7%. The death toll has risen to 1 398 after 5 new deaths were recorded.
The 37th day of the 2nd hard lockdown represents the eve of the end of lockdown. We urge the Government to immediately provide clarity and guidance on social economic measures that will remain in effect, as the vaccination drive is expected to begin with the arrival of vaccines tomorrow, 15th of February 2021.
We seek particular directives on matters such as borders and ports of entry, public institutions providing keys services, the reopening of schools and indeed the public transit systems.
It would be a waste of the efforts made thus far should the directives regarding the new normal remain unclear, not fully inspected and unsupported. We therefore urge Government to ensure that all further steps do not lead the country into a potential 3rd wave.
We note that today further marks exactly one year to the day Africa recorded its first COVID-19 case and as a review of the context in Africa, we join increasing calls for vaccines equity and sustainability to underwrite the development and distribution of vaccines.
We further raise concerns regarding the slow pace of tracing variants and mutations within Zimbabwe and Africa viz a viz the vaccines that are being on-boarded. With a scarcity of resources, Zimbabwe cannot afford to engage in expensive procurement processes that will be rendered ineffective due to poor efficacy against variants and mutations.
Critical Emerging Issue
Science led vaccine procurement
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.
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 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.
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 call upon concerted efforts to decongest authorised public transport.
- We call for the return of 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 physical schooling.
- We call for expanded community testing to ensure adequate testing and tracing regardless of the onboarding of vaccines.
- We call for support to the establishment and sustenance of community-based isolation centres to alleviate the hardships of families and communities that cannot self-isolate.
- We call for 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 retrofit productions lines and respects COVID-19 measures regarding distances and safety.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe