361 days of the COVID-19 lockdown, and as of 24 March 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 36 749, after 32 new cases were reported. All cases are local cases. The highest case tally was recorded in Harare with 17 cases. We note that the hospitalisation rate as of 1500hrs on the 23rd of March 2021 went down to 47 hospitalised cases, 14 asymptomatic cases, 21 mild to moderate cases, 9 severe cases and 3 cases in Intensive Care Units. Active cases went up to 757. The total number of recoveries went up to 34 476, increasing by 29 recoveries. The recovery rate remains at 93.8%. A total of 5 269 people were vaccinated. We note that 1 427 second dose recipients bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 2 849. The cumulative number of the vaccinated now stands at 49 404. The death toll remains at 1 516, after no new deaths were recorded.
We note the high number of persons vaccinated today. This marks the highest number of vaccines administered in one day. We acknowledge the impact of expansion for the vaccine administrators and the expansion of citizens eligible for vaccination.
Critical emerging issues
COVID-19 surveillance in Education Centres
We highlight the reports of 7 pupils who tested positive for COVID-19 at Prince Edward School in Harare. Whilst, we appreciate and note the efforts of the schools in seeking to stem the spread of infection and support the young persons as they seek to fully recover, we call upon the Government to ensure real-time support to the schools in the run-up of resuming schooling operations.
- We continue to call for testing support to education centres and learning facilities teams.
- We continue to call for vigilance in the community-based systems of disease surveillance to ensure that schools do not become super spreader spaces.
Decrease in COVID-19 mass testing
We note a decrease in the number of tests currently being undertaken on a daily basis, especially in light of the vaccine roll-out currently underway. Whilst we acknowledge and celebrate the persistent reduction in COVID-19 cases we remain concerned about the need to strengthen vigilance on infection control at the community level. We draw attention to congested public spaces such a government service centres for transport, documentation, agriculture and other public services. We remain concerned at weak adherence to social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing in retail centres and community social events. The upcoming Easter holidays are a real risk. Whilst we acknowledge effort as announced by Cabinet to retain control on COVID-19 infections for both domestic and international transmission cases, we remain concerned about the lack of real changes in how communities travel, engage and engage in day-to-day activities.
We continue to emphasize the need for an advanced test strategy that ensures community mass testing and contact tracing. We continue to emphasize that, in the absence of mass community testing and public accounting for local transmission case-tracing, it is impossible to determine the appropriate reflection of the COVID-19 pandemic prevalence in Zimbabwe.
- We urge against de-prioritisation of testing, over the vaccine roll-out.
- We further reinforce our call for an advanced testing strategy in the public sector and urge Government to update the Nation on the progress of testing of all members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and all lockdown enforcement officers.
Equality and Participation in COVID-19 decision-making positions
We continue to expose the 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 engagements with grassroots, 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 the 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 publicization 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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe