527 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of 6th of September 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 125 671 after 121 new cases, all local cases, were recorded. The highest case tally was recorded in Harare with 24 cases. We note that the Hospitalisation rate as at 15:00hrs on 5 September 2021 was 173 hospitalised cases: 8 new admissions, 12 asymptomatic cases, 145 mild-to-moderate cases, 11 severe cases and 5 cases in Intensive Care Units.
Active cases went down to 4 142. The total number of recoveries went up to 117 036 increasing by 635 recoveries. The recovery rate remains at 93%. A total of 16 407 people received their 1st dose of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 2 729 955. A total of 11 367 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 1 728 797. The death toll went up to 4 493 after 11 new deaths were recorded.
Critical Emerging Issue
Remaining vigilant under Level 2 of the lockdown
We note the announcement of lockdown measures which indicate a significant relaxation of socio-economic controls on Zimbabwe in response to the reduced new infection and reduced new admissions over the past two weeks. Among other newly announced measures, we note the following:
- Work-place decongestion limits have been revised upwards from 10% to 50%.
- Curfew to start from 22:00 to 05:30. Business will now be able to operate their commercial enterprises from 08:00 to 19:00.
- Extension of numbers of permitted persons to 100 persons.
- Intercity travel is now fully resumed without restriction but with strict adherence to COVID-19 containment measures.
- Low risk sports are to resume with time limits of being conducted between 08:00 to 16:00.
While commending the newly announced Level 2 measures:
- We caution against complacency and urge citizens to remain vigilant by strictly observing safety protocols and public health guidelines.
- We urge businesses to ensure safety of workers by observing safety protocols such as regular fumigation of work-spaces and temperature checks.
- We call upon Government and stakeholders to strengthen communication campaigns and awareness raising on COVID-19 and vaccination, so as to influence behavioural change amongst communities during this transition from Level 4 to Level 2 lockdown.
We amplify the experiences of communities indicating chaos in the Back-to-School rush. Accordingly, we highlight the super spreader effect of the back-to-school period as follows:
- Congestion in stores and disregard of COVID-19 safety protocols
We amplify reports indicating that school supply retailers and stores across the country were completely unprepared for the return to school rush under COVID-19 conditions. Widespread reports, nationwide, indicate problematic congestion in stores which was exacerbated by the limited operating hours. Additionally, under such congestion, no social distancing was reportedly witnessed regards to store queues or overall congested spaces. This was further worsened by congestion in enquiries or schools’ lists, methods of payment and stock verification upon exit. Such slow-moving queues in congested stores were also notably marked by poor ventilation and as such forcing customers to spend inordinate amounts of time within such conditions. Furthermore, we highlight reports indicating the lack of use of sanitizers as reported nationwide at various stores and non-adherence to face-mask wearing by customers. We further note with concern, how stores and retailers have not shifted, in any way, to online or booking and pick-up or pre-order facilities.
- Increased demand for public transport
We further note that the entire weekend was awash with horror experiences of congested transport facilities which failed to adhere to COVID-19 protocols due to the shortage of transport. We stress that the congestion in stores represents a trickle-down effect of congestion in public transport spaces and in public spaces including non-food market and other places of socio-economic activities in preparation of the resumption of schools.
- Covid-19 cases in examination classes
We are concerned by the reports indicating that under only 1 week of operations for examination classes several cases of COVID-19 have been tracked and traced. Accordingly, we are concerned about the potential rise of COVID-19 cases in normal school terms. While we commend the vigilance of the surveillance system in schools, we raise concern over the shifting of the burden of costs to parents and guardians, particularly in circumstances where already financially-strapped families are being required to supply COVID-19 tests prior to learners arriving at school.
- We therefore urge schools to reduce levels of rigidity regarding the school supplies that learners are required to present at school.
- We stress the need to ensure the prioritization of safety of learners, teachers and supporting staff during this period.
- We urge Government, ZUPCO and other players in the public transport sector to introduce pupils-only buses to alleviate transport challenges encountered by pupils.
- We call for specific support to small scale business operators in the education sector to drive adaptation, and innovation and to support their recoveries in the post-COVID-19 recovery period.
- We call for state support to assist community suppliers and local retailers to shoulder the costs of adaptation to support pre-booking and pick up systems.
- We call for increased coordination between schools reporting suspect cases of COVID-19 and community clinics to fast track access to testing for schools and remove the burden of expensive covid testing on parents.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe