508 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of 18th of August 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 121 498 after 452 new cases all local cases, were recorded. The highest case tally was recorded in Manicaland with 115 cases. We note the general nature of the hotspot update which did not give hotspot specific data but reported on the general downward trend of new infections due to containment measures. We note that the Hospitalisation rate as of 15:00hrs on 17 August 2021 was 437 hospitalised cases: 38 new admissions, 93 asymptomatic cases, 274 mild-to-moderate cases, 40 severe cases and 30 cases in Intensive Care Units. (Providence, St Rupert’s, Filabusi, Muzari, St Michael’s, Gokwe South District Hospital and Masvingo Province did not report).
Active cases went down to 15 840. The total number of recoveries went up to 101 837 increasing by 1 626 recoveries. The recovery rate remains goes up further, marginally, to 84% from 83%. A total of 47 809 people received their 1st dose of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 2 193 346. A total of 43 572 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 1 348 374. The death toll went up to 4 181 after 25 new deaths were recorded.
We note that Zimbabwe is set to receive 1.5 million Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines as part of the first of three expected batches, due to arrive this afternoon. We note the last batch is due to arrive on Saturday.
Zimbabwe is planning to vaccinate at least 10 million out of the estimated population of 15 million.
Critical Emerging Issues
Stepping up Infection Control at Funerals
We continue to highlight the need to step up efforts to ensure stronger infection control at funerals which continue to militate against the efforts to stem increased rates of infection. Whilst we acknowledge the efforts made on information and awareness-raising of infection control measures at funerals, we continue to raise the red flag pertaining to funerals management practices in communities. We are well aware that matters arising from and pertaining to funerals have been the subject of significant dialogue and engagements, however, distressing reports from our networks continue to reveal very little transformation on the ground. Despite funerals and related activities such as vigils, burials and memorials having been long identified as high-risk social activities, there continues to be a grave 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 guideline at rural funerals. We note that funerals are being reported to have more than 50 people at vigils and that burials are far exceeding the limit of 30 people at burial grounds. We stress that this 30 person 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 with distress the following worrying practices at funerals:
- Church groups paying their respects at funerals continue to attend community funerals in large groups of more than five to ten people.
- 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.
- Laxity being demonstrated by religious leaders hugging and consoling mourners including the direct shaking of hands at funerals without regard to infection control.
- 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 a 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 practices 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.
Transport crisis and its intersection with women and girls’ rights and COVID-19
We amplify the transport crisis and its intersection with women and girls’ rights and COVID-19. We continue to raise concerns on the creation and sustenance of the ZUPCO transport monopoly during a pandemic and in a context where there is inadequate transport to meet the needs of the commuting public. We raise concerns at the reports of ZUPCO drivers who are persistently receiving their pay-outs late and as such are now embarking on industrial action to raise their concerns. This places even greater strain on the availability of buses when already the crisis of unmet transport needs is so great. We raise concerns regarding the restructuring of the public transport system which has weakened the fabric of the mass public transit system remarkably. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, this move has not only posed devastating effects on infection control for COVID-19 but also on the safety and security of women and girls. This has been particularly the case, especially as there are growing complaints of the laxity of COVID-19 control measures on the available buses due to rising demand. In addition, it has been noted that the bus pick-up points and stations are persistently characterised by overcrowding with no social distancing and public sanitisation support measures. Furthermore, we continue to decry bus shortages and delays in transit times which consequently is placing communities and women directly in the face of illegal mshika mshika where incidents of rape and other forms of sexual offences are becoming rampant.
- We therefore recommend the introduction of women-only taxis and buses, so as not only to improve the accessibility of public transport, but also to ensure the safety and security of women and girls in the public transport system.
- We urge strict enforcement of public health-guidelines and health protocols in the public transport system.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe