Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 510 – WCoZ Situation Report

510 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of 20th of August 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 122 283 after 386 new cases all local cases, were recorded. The highest case tally was recorded in Harare with 70 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 19 August 2021 was 416 hospitalised cases: 20 new admissions, 69 asymptomatic cases, 280 mild-to-moderate cases, 48 severe cases and 19 cases in Intensive Care Units. (Providence, Muzari, Queen Mary, St Michael’s, Gwanda Provincial Hospital, Masvingo Provincial Hospital did not report).

Active cases went down to 12 584. The total number of recoveries went up to 105 484 increasing by 1 450 recoveries. The recovery rate remains goes up further, marginally, to 86% from 85%. A total of 38 164 people received their 1st dose of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 2 271 729. A total of 40 407 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 1 427 159. The death toll went up to 4 220 after 22 new deaths were recorded.

We continue to urge religious groups and communities to respect regulations and ensure that only vaccinated persons attend services and further that COVID-19 controls including social distancing and sanitization prevail during services. We continue to call for the considered approach towards ensuring vaccine access is equitable prior to the creation of silos in our society. 

Critical Emerging Issues 

Funerals, Night vigils and Burials, Vaccinated Persons – driving infections at community level 

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. Community reports continue to indicate a high level of attendance of funerals, night vigils and burials breaching the 30 person limits and failing to respect social distancing sanitization and mandatory mask-wearing mandates. 

We are concerned that vaccinated persons appear to consider that attending funerals, in breach of 30 person limits is now permissible as they are vaccinated. 

Where the deceased has passed on from COVID-19, and the caregivers have been vaccinated, there is a rising mistaken impression of COVID-19 immunity, created and fostered by being vaccinated. This erroneous belief is driving close family members to advise their funerals of their beloveds are exempt from COVID-19, as the rest of the household was vaccinated. These reports and trends indicate a grave lack of appreciation of the consequences of vaccination and the relation and applicability of COVID-19 controls to vaccinated persons and the dangerous implications of such limited understanding eroding infection control measures.  

We stress the fact that vaccination is increasingly being driven by a mandatory nature is creating real-time gaps in community behavioural practices which are critical to pivot if Zimbabwe is to remain ahead of the pandemic. We continue to reiterate that our networks report similar trends across urban, peri-urban and rural communities. 

Network reports from rural communities indicate a greater disregard of COVID-19 guidelines at funerals, night vigils and burial ceremonies and as such with the rollout of vaccination to rural communities, vaccinated persons are re-interpreting guidelines to mean that they are exempt from COVID-19 Control measures.  Our reports indicate that rural-based community networks across the country continue to display failure to respect the 30 persons limit at funerals. 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 increased messaging for vaccinated persons to understand they can still pass infections to others who may or may not be vaccinated, further we call for increased messages on radio particularly on the effects of vaccination. 
  • We call for government to express directly in information messages that getting an injection is the actual vaccination itself there are no further steps to be taken or expected to occur. We call for a reprioritisation of the information blitz as the COVID-19 fatigue is negatively impacting on the capacity of communities to shift behaviour accordingly. 
  • 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

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.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

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