349 days of the COVID-19 lockdown, and as of 12 March 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 36 423 after 46 new cases were reported. All cases are local cases. The highest case tally was recorded in Bulawayo with 24 cases. We note that the hospitalisation rate as of 1500hrs on the 10th of March 2021 went down to 126 hospitalised cases, 82 asymptomatic cases, 24 mild to moderate cases, 18 severe cases and 2 cases in Intensive Care Units. Active cases increased to 931. The total number of recoveries went up to 33 996, increasing by 19 recoveries. The recovery rate slightly declined to 93.3%. A total of 264 frontline workers were vaccinated, bringing the cumulative number of the vaccinated to 36 283. The death toll went up to 1 496 following 4 new recorded deaths.
We note the slight increase in COVID-19 cases in the past 2 days, disrupting the decreasing trend which had been observed in the past weeks. While we may not state for certain the explanation for this, we raise concern that the relaxation of the lockdown and the increasing socio-economic activities by citizens may be contributory. We continue to urge communities to exercise caution and continue to observe COVID-19 safety measures and health guidelines.
Critical emerging issues
Clarity of COVID-19 Vaccines Decisions
We note that Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Romania, Bulgaria, Thailand and South Africa have stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine. We note that the WHO and EU, jointly with France and Germany, have reiterated their support of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In the midst of the series of vaccine stoppages and in face of real geopolitical issues arising from vaccine choices, we call upon the Government of Zimbabwe, which has a mandate to protect citizens through the Zimbabwean scientific body, the National Immunisation Advisory Group (NITAG) to give their assessment of the same vaccine in the public domain.
We call for transparency on the process of securing the same vaccine for Zimbabwe to update the nation on where Zimbabwe is in regards to AstraZeneca particularly as this was the first vaccine to be locally assessed and was the first vaccine to guide the vaccine roll-out program.
Equality and Participation in COVID-19 decision-making positions
We note a big structural gender imbalance problem within the COVID-19 taskforce structures at District, Provincial and National levels. Statistics indicate that very few women have been included in the COVID-19 response leadership structures. Research in Zimbabwe and the world over, has underscored the fact that although women have been on the frontlines of COVID-19 as first responders, health providers, primary care-givers and engagers with communities, their meaningful representation in policy development and decision making on COVID-19 has remained limited. The effects of poor women’s representation in the COVID-19 structures have manifested in Government’s and decision-makers failure to adequately respond to the specific needs of women and girls during COVID-19 e.g in Quarantine and isolation centres. Moreover, this has also led to the failure by decision-makers in the Taskforces to collect sex-disaggregated data, in order to inform policies and gender sensitive policies on COVID-19. We, therefore, call for:
- Implementation of Constitutional provisions, particularly, sections 17, 56 and 80, which speak to gender balance, and equality in representation in all spheres of the Zimbabwe society. This includes COVID-19 Taskforce and Response groups at all levels.
- Urgent publication of analysed sex and age disaggregated data by Government on the composition of the COVID-19 taskforce teams throughout the country.
- Establishment of Gender Advisory Experts at all levels of the National COVID-19 Response Structures.
Accountability for COVID-19 funding and vaccines
We note our ongoing concern regarding the weak accountability for COVID-19 funds in Zimbabwe. We note with alarm the recent disclosure that Treasury has entered into a debt agreement with the Arab Economic bank for USD 10 million to respond to COVID-19. This is untenable. Whilst we are fully aware that the response has been financed by a mix of direct government budgetary expenditure, donations from development partners, the private sector and communities. We remain concerned about the accountability measures provided by all who contributed to the national response to COVID-19. We have raised repeatedly discrepancies in the public domain regarding the funding by Treasury to COVID-19 research, response and vaccines. We remain alarmed that despite the best efforts of individual Members of Parliament and some Committee of Parliament to seek clarifications on Treasury funds, the response remains grossly inadequate and dismal.
- A comprehensive public accounting of the state funding support towards the COVID-19 pandemic.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe