Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 471 – WCoZ Situation Report

471 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of 12th of July 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 70 426 after 2 661 new cases all local cases. The highest case tally was recorded in Mashonaland East at 338 cases. The hotspots updates are as follows; Mashonaland West Province- Kariba (20), Karoi (21), Sanyati (109), Zvimba (74) Kasimure (6) Chegutu (38), Mashonaland Central –Mazowe (57), Centenary (62). Mashonaland East-Goromonzi (56) Chikomba (58). Masvingo Province – Chiredzi (113), Mwenezi (65). Midlands Province – Kwekwe (23). Bulawayo Province – Nkulumane (29), Emakhandeni (65) and Northern Suburbs (125), Harare Province (330).

We note that the Hospitalisation rate as at 15:00hrs on the 11th of the July 2021 was 753 hospitalised cases: 90 New Admissions, 209 Asymptomatic cases, 439 mild to moderate cases, 77 severe cases and 28 cases in Intensive Care Units.

Active cases go down to 21 258. The total number of recoveries went up to 46 932 increasing by 1 315 recoveries. The recovery rate remains at 67%. A total of 30 332 people received their 1st doses of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 926 312. A total of 10 139 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 605 556. The death toll went up to 2 236 after 51 new deaths were recorded.

We note the latest announcement by Government on the COVID-19 situation in the country as follows:

  • Approximately 80% of the new COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe are of the Delta or India variant.
  • The extension of Level 4 Lock-down by another 2 weeks.
  • Strict enforcement of  inter-city travel ban
  • 1 million citizens to be vaccinated during the two-week extension.

While commending these measures, we urge Government to expedite support and innovation in the treatment of and management of COVID-19 cases. We are especially concerned by the increased hospitalisation rate, in particular the increase of severe cases requiring Intensive care support. We remain distressed at the implications of such severity on the quality of care presently available in the country.

We commend the outputs of vaccination blitz currently underway with a notable number of just over forty thousand persons going through vaccine centres. We continue to call for the adoption of recommendations we have made in our earlier situation reports, to ensure vaccination centres are not super spreader points. We look forward to meeting the daily target of 50 000 persons vaccinated per day during this blitz in order to reach the 1 Million-mark target in the next 2 weeks of the lockdown extension.

Critical Emerging Issues

Improved Screening for COVID-19

We commend the high rate of testing for COVID-19 that have been sustained in the past month of the crisis. We note the commitment to trace outbreaks and ensure greater numbers of communities’ access to testing services. We continue to draw attention to the continued need to improve screening services and enhance the deployment of testing capacity.

  • We urge the re-introduction of mobile screening on highways and main arterial roads across the country. We consider such screening an integral part of proactive virus hunting and infection control. 
  • We continue to request clear guidelines to be communicated to communities in regards to screening for COVID-19 to ensure that those communities that require investigation are front loaded into testing services and that COVID-19 testing is channelled where it is needed the most.
  • We reiterate our calls for the expansion of high risks persons to ensure that specific socio-economic activities that have a direct bearing on infection control are clearly identified and supported with both enhanced surveillance and expanded testing support.
  • We call for increased deployment of testing services at people’s markets and fresh produce markets.

Outstanding 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 large 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.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)