Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 470 – WCoZ Situation Report

470 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of 11th of July 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 67 765 after 912 new cases all local cases. The highest case tally was recorded in Mashonaland West at 230 cases. The hotspots updates are as follows; Mashonaland West Province- Kariba (14), Karoi (43), Chinhoyi (71) Kasimure (6) Chegutu (38), Mashonaland Central –Mazowe (10), Bindura (24). Mashonaland East-Murewa (39), Marondera (22). Masvingo Province – Chiredzi (18), Masvingo (35). Midlands Province – Kwekwe (3). Bulawayo Province – Nkulumane (21), Emakhandeni (31) and Northern Suburbs (60), Harare Province (158).

We note that the Hospitalisation rate as at 15:00hrs on the 10th of the July 2021 was 684 hospitalised cases: 83 New Admissions, 188 Asymptomatic cases, 394 mild to moderate cases, 78 severe cases and 24 cases in Intensive Care Units.

Active cases go down to 19 963. The total number of recoveries went up to 45 617 increasing by 1 037 recoveries. The recovery rate goes down, further to 67% from 68%. A total of 9 361 people received their 1st doses of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 895 980. A total of 4 916 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 595 417. The death toll went up to 2 185 after 59 new deaths were recorded.

Critical emerging issues

Crisis with infection control at funerals

We continue to highlight the crisis of events such as funerals, which are militating against the efforts to stem increased rates of infection. We are well aware that the matters arising from and pertaining to funerals have been subject of significant dialogue and engagements. However, distressing reports from our networks continue to reveal very little transformation on the ground. Despite funerals, including related activities such as vigils, burials and memorials having been long identified as high-risk social activities, there appears an urgent need to ensure adherence to guidelines and increased enforcement in real terms on this matter.

Our reports indicate that rural based community networks across the country continue to display failure to respect the 30 person’s guideline at rural funerals. We stress that this 30 person’s guideline is not a ceiling for direct family members but includes all community members including grave diggers and community groups who provide traditional support to families in mourning. We note the following with distress the following worrying practices at funerals:

  1. Church groups paying their respects at funerals continue to attend community funerals in groups of more than five to ten people.
  2. Traditional groups and or religious groups continue to bring and use several traditional instruments such as drums and percussion instruments which are shared without sanitization during vigil ceremonies.
  3. Laxity being demonstrated by religious leaders hugging and consoling mourners including the direct shaking hands at funerals without regard to infection control.
  4. Meals being served fully during memorials and vigils despite the community guidelines that raise this practice as high risk. As such measures to minimise transmission are poorly respected due to various social and cultural norms.

We are concerned regarding the complete collapse of any adherence to COVID-19 protocol once the bereaved family announces that the deceased did not pass away from COVID-19. Such patterns reveal that mourners appear to believe that they themselves do not present risk of infection of COVID-19, and as such the focus is only on the deceased. We are distressed by the poor direction and guidance being provided by Traditional leaders who are not openly advising or intervening when such practises occur at funerals. We are further concerned by religious leaders who are not providing lead counsel to families and communities on the need to respect the practical guidelines for infection control.

  • We therefore reiterate that messages pertaining to COVID-19 regulation apply to all funerals despite the deceased having passed from non-COVID-19 related conditions.
  • We urge Government to shift gears in messaging on funerals. We call for direct mentioning of practical matters arising at funerals to guide behavioural changes.
  • We call for increased direct investment into the training and awareness-raising of traditional leaders at community levels directly (not only senior Chiefs) and to religious leaders in lead of community churches, specifically on infection control at funerals vigils and memorials.
  • We continue to urge the deployment of community policing teams at community funerals to ensure communities are aware of heightened monitoring of funerals and support behavioural change interventions.

Outstanding issues

Shortage of PPE

We highlight that PPE as well as a host of other measures as advised by the WHO are critical in protecting the health sector to ensure that when the surge arises, the capacity of the health sector to respond is at its maximum capacity.

  • We urge Government to value and promote the safety of frontline workers by minimizing their risk of exposure to the virus.
  • We further reiterate the need to escalate procurement processes of PPE for frontline workers.
  • We continue to call for the publication of the distribution matrix of critical health supplies by province, to be published as a standard good governance practise in the time of the global pandemic and national emergency.
  • We continue to urge for the greatest transparency in COVID-19 supplies’ procurement and distribution.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)