457 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of 28th of June 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 47 284 after 842 new cases were reported, all local. The highest case tally was recorded in Mashonaland West with 195 cases. Localised lockdown updates are as follows: Kariba (42), Karoi (35) and Chinhoyi (43), Kwekwe (32). The hotspots updates are as follows; Midlands has the addition of Zvishavane district as a hotspot with (57), Masvingo Province- Chiredzi (79); Mashonaland Central – Centenary (24), Mashonaland East-Marondera (40), In Bulawayo Province – Nkulumane (9), Emakhandeni (24) and Northern Suburbs (24).
We note that the Hospitalisation rate as at 15:00hrs on the 27th of June 2021 was 353 hospitalised cases: 40 New Admissions, 97 Asymptomatic cases, 209 mild to moderate cases, 44 severe cases and 3 cases in Intensive Care Units. We note that Matebeleland South did not report.
Active cases went up to 7 586. The total number of recoveries went up to 37 949 increasing by 132 recoveries. The recovery rate went down further, marginally, from 81% to 80%. A total of 7 957 people received their 1st doses of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 764 248. A total of 15 938 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 534 906. The death toll goes up to 1 749 after 13 new deaths were recorded.
Critical emerging issues
Increasing to Level 4 Lockdown and Expanded COVID-19 Containment Measures
We note the announcement of the general restrictions in Zimbabwe which have been increased to level 4. While we appreciate that the measures are directed at the containment of COVID-19 which has recorded increased infections, increased hospitalisations and increased fatalities in the recent days, we register our displeasure over announcements that are made “with immediate effect”, without giving citizens reasonable time to prepare.
We are concerned with the announcement by Government to the effect that frontline workers who have not been vaccinated will note receive COVID-19 pay-outs. We highlight that this measure raises problems in light of the rights of workers and their rights to make choices over their bodies.
- We call instead for increased training and support to frontline workers who have legitimate questions on the present vaccines to ensure greater numbers of persons are vaccinated.
We also note the following additional containment measures announced by Government:
Decongestion of workplaces
We recognise the target to decongest workplaces to 40% of staff including industry which has previously been operating at full capacity. We believe that this will support decongestion of public transport nodes as demand will be slightly reduced. In addition, the reduction of operating hours for business to 08:00hrs to 15:30hrs is an additional step to decongest the demand for the public transport system which is a high risk arena for the transmission of COVID-19.
- We call for the increased flexibility of ZUPCO timetables and the increased frequency of ZUPCO buses to ensure that the operating hours of business are supported by the operating hours and service capacity of the largest only public transport operator in the country.
In addition, we note that ‘Commercial transport’ will continue to operate. Once again, we critique such blanket labelling of the commercial sector transportation without clear guidelines on what is meant by this term.
- We once again call for specifics in regards to their operations to ensure communities are not subject to arbitrary enforcement measures and to avoid rent seeking activities by enforcement officers.
Curfew and Intercity travel
While noting the restatement of the 6:30pm to 6:00am curfew, we continue to urge human rights-based approach to its enforcement.
We further note the restrictions on Intercity travel which has been prohibited with the exception of food and medicine deliveries.
- We continue to call for screening facilities to be established on major highways to support infection control measures as those who are on the essential services lists in the agricultural sector are the same communities who have largely been excluded from the bio-medical efforts towards curbing COVID-19.
Travelling and Quarantine of returning citizens
We note that deported citizens will be quarantined. We call for Government to fully expand this provision by announcing whether Quarantine centres for returnees are being fully restored and further the commitment of Treasury to support these centres especially in cases where persons returning as deportees are financially indigent and have limited social support.
Whilst we note that the COVID-19 measures make direct reference to the quarantining of citizens from countries registering the Alpha (first identified in the UK) and Delta (first identified in India) COVID-19 variants;
- We reiterate our calls upon Government, for the avoidance of doubt, to openly list countries with the above variants for Zimbabwe specifically and directly.
We further note the financial burden on Travellers from countries with the Alpha and Delta variants who will be subject to 4 tests on the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 10th day of quarantine.
- We continue to call for the announcement of the system to ensure that self-quarantined travellers are indeed monitored and regularly checked so as to avoid abuse of the system or loopholes which may reduce the efforts to ensure effective infection control.
We note the reiteration that traveling with a fake COVID-19 certificate attracts a custodial sentence and as such we call for strengthened measures to ensure detention centres and holding cells are supported to readiness to address the infection control of COVID-19 in this controlled population.
Blitz COVID-19 Vaccination campaign
We commend the changes in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign which will now directly target tobacco auction floors, GMB depots, cotton depots, major construction sites and socio-economic markets such as Renkini in Bulawayo and Mbare in Harare.
- We believe this will go a long way in ensuring wide population reach in relation to vaccination.
Deployment of MPs and Ministers
Whilst we commend the dispatching of Ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) to disseminate information and support the COVID-19 vaccination drive efforts, we call for the greatest adherence to social distancing, hand sanitization and proper mask wearing by political representatives whilst on duty.
- Particularly, we wish to caution Members of Parliament and Ministers to observe the COVID-19 safety protocols, highlighting that this is not an opportunity for gathering thousands of community members and embarking on political campaign rallies. It is important for MPs to ensure prioritisation of the safety of their constituencies they serve.
- We note this deployment and at the same time question the lack of direct efforts to support councillors in wards which are closely linked with communities and have received limited support in reporting their community needs to the COVID 19 support structures.
- We continue to call for greater support to the participation and representation of women specifically in the COVID-19 response be it in formal COVID-19 taskforce teams or in support measures.
Revitalisation of the COVID-19 National Vaccination Program
We commend the measures to procure 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. We note the arrival of the 500 000 doses this weekend and the additional doses on their way. We note that the past two weeks have been characterised by a severe slowdown of vaccination with some vaccines centres fully shut down, while others have only been offering second doses. While we note various contradictory pronouncements by the authorities over the possibility of mandatory vaccination, we urge Government against such unnecessary policy measures. We re-iterate that vaccination is driven by strong clear communication systems and complete full disclosure of the vaccine products, support mechanisms to those vaccinated and transparency over local and international data on vaccines.
- We therefore call for the rolling out of mobile vaccination programs to rural areas, directly supported with robust messaging and information dissemination campaigns. This should connect to the reality of hotspots largely being rural communities which have been grossly underserviced in all aspects of responding to the pandemic.
- We recommend the provision of vaccines at Tobacco Sales Floors and GMB collection points and depots, especially noting that the rural-based small scale agricultural producers have not been covered at all bio-medically by all aspects of pandemic response. As such, the third wave is a time to shift focus and operating modalities.
- We reiterate calls for expansion of logistical support to both the vaccination drive and the pandemic response. We recommend an “all hands-on deck” management response as opposed to the poor management that have been evidenced in the public domain.
- We urge Government to publicly update the nation on the procurement schedule which we will continue to monitor, especially with 2 million doses of the Sino-pharm vaccine expected from China by month-end.
- We continue to call for Government to uphold its governance commitments and obligations to the nation by establishing a Commission of Inquiry on the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)