323 days of the COVID-19 lockdown and as of 14 February 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases has increased to 35 172 with a reported recording of 68 new cases reported. All are local cases, of which the highest case tally was recorded in Harare with 29 cases and Bulawayo with the second-highest tally at 22 cases. We note that the hospitalisation rate, as of 1500 hrs on the 13th of February 2021 went down to 45 hospitalised cases, 9 asymptomatic, 24 mild to moderate cases, 12 severe cases and no cases in Intensive Care Units. We note that several Harare, Manicaland and Masvingo health care centres did not report. Active cases went down to 3 171 as the total number of recoveries went up to 30 601 following a continued increase in recoveries to 512 recoveries. The recovery rate rose to 87%. The death toll has risen to 1 400 after 2 new deaths were recorded.
The 38th day of the 2nd hard lockdown and the first batch of vaccines in the country arrives from China as part of the 200 000 donated vaccines and 600 000 purchased vaccine batch. The vaccines will be undergoing testing over the next 48 hours and distribution will begin imminently. Whilst we commend the efforts of Government and the support of development partners in delivering the much-needed vaccines in Zimbabwe, we continue to call for transparency and accountability in the entire procurement and distribution process, including the inclusion and engagement of the Zimbabwean scientific community in the vaccine roll-out plan.
Critical Emerging Issue
Extension of lockdown
We appreciate the announcement of lockdown measures which have been extended for the next two weeks. The measures will support a focus on reduction of COVID-19 infections whilst being complimented by vaccine rollout.
We note further the stated purpose of the lockdown of enabling health personnel to investigate the presence and circulation of new variants. We commend the efforts being made in this regard as a key element to addressing COVID-19.
- We call upon Government to publish the results of such investigations to the public as soon as the process is complete.
We note changes in the current measures that represent a relaxation of rules. In particular, working hours which have been extended to between 8 am and 5 pm. Curfew hours have also been reduced but remain in place. Inter-city and interprovincial travel remains banned and the number of funeral-goers remains limited to 30 people. All social gatherings remain banned.
We query the vagueness of measures pertaining to the resumption of the informal sector as guided by WHO guidelines.
- We challenge the government to provide clear infrastructural investment in informal sector commercial spaces and in community markets.
- We call for a clear explanation of regulations to guide the informal sector and not leave them at the mercy of vague directives that promote weaknesses and abuse of citizens in enforcement patterns.
We commend the expanded testing to be undertaken by the Ministry of Health and Childcare.
- We call upon the Ministry to extend free testing to the informal sector which cannot sustain resumption of operations without it.
- We remain concerned about the failure of the announcement to address particular directives on matters such as borders and ports of entry, the decongestion and safety of public transit systems. It would be a waste of the efforts made thus far if directives regarding the new normal are not clear, not fully inspected and not supported.
- We urge Government to ensure that the above steps that are not addressed do not lead the country into a potential 3rd wave.
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 the 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 to 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.
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 that the first batch arrived today 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 and the efficacy of potential vaccines against said variations and or mutations are yet to be completed.
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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe