509 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of 19th of August 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 121 902 after 404 new cases all local cases, were recorded. The highest case tally was recorded in Manicaland with 62 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 18 August 2021 was 417 hospitalised cases: 50 new admissions, 78 asymptomatic cases, 282 mild-to-moderate cases, 38 severe cases and 19 cases in Intensive Care Units. (Providence, Gokwe North and Gokwe South District Hospitals, Gweru Provincial Hospitals did not report).
Active cases went down to 13 670. The total number of recoveries went up to 104 034 increasing by 2 197 recoveries. The recovery rate remains goes up further, marginally, to 85% from 84%. A total of 40 219 people received their 1st dose of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 2 233 565. A total of 38 378 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 1 386 752. The death toll went up to 4 198 after 17 new deaths were recorded.
Critical Emerging Issues
Drop in adherence to mandatory mask-wearing mandate
We continue to draw attention to the significant drop in communities’ adherence to masking up, despite the increase in monetary fines for the offence. Communities continue to demonstrate laxity in adherence to the mandatory mask-wearing public health guidelines right across the country as reported by our membership as a result of a snap survey. Concerned for infection control within the informal sector which represents 80% of Zimbabwe economic activities which occur in workspaces are characterised by high levels of congestion and density of persons.
- We continue to remind and stress to both the public and policy makers that vaccination is not a substitute for infection control.
- We continue to call for adherence to physical distancing, wearing of facemasks and regular temperature checks by businesses both formal and informal.
Stepping up Infection Control at Funerals
We continue to highlight the need to step up effort to ensure stronger infection control at funerals which continue to militate against the efforts to stem increased rates of infection. Whist we acknowledge the efforts made in 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, including related activities such as vigils, burials and memorials having been long identified as high-risk social activities, there continues to persist 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 number 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 the following 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 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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe