536 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of 15th of September 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 127 083 after 266 new cases, all local cases, were recorded. The highest case tally was recorded in Matebeleland South with 61 cases. We note that the Hospitalisation rate as at 15:00hrs on 14th September 2021 was 107 hospitalised cases: 6 new admissions, 4 asymptomatic cases, 80 mild-to-moderate cases, 23 severe cases and 0 cases in Intensive Care Units.
Active cases went down to 2 745. The total number of recoveries went up to 119 787 increasing by 571 recoveries. The recovery rate remains at 94%. A total of 18 244 people received their 1st dose of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 2 892 137. A total of 36 811 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 1 963 058. The death toll went up to 4 551 after 1 new death was recorded.
Critical Emerging Issue
Outbreaks of COVID-19 in Schools
We highlight with alarm and distress, the widespread reports of COVID-19 outbreaks in schools two weeks after the education sector substantively resumed operations. We note with concern that the high number of COVID-19 cases currently being reported are representing outbreaks in schools directly. We highlight reports indicating that 11 schools have been forced to shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks. We note with concern that schools have contributed to over 264 cases of COVID-19 thus far and the tracing is ongoing. We highlight reports that at least three schools in Mberengwa District of Midlands province have suspended operations due to a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections. We bring to the attention of the authorities, the following challenges currently being experienced in schools:
- Lack of sanitation and resources for quarantine
Schooling communities are facing currently facing shortages of water and sanitation services, meals and various resources to support isolation and quarantine measures. We note with concern the outbreaks in schools in Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Masvingo and Matabeleland South provinces which are in similar distress.
- Inadequate testing and tracing support
Widespread reports indicate community level of schools with inadequate testing and tracing. Communities continue to report limited investment in community schools for effective testing, tracing and psychosocial mechanisms to support the safe resumption of the education sector.
Noting these numerous challenges,
- We call for rapid deployment of increased testing capacity to provinces as the current stocks are insufficient to support response measures.
- We urge direct support to boarding schools to support infrastructure upgrades to assist safe reopening of schools
- We recommend increased deployment of social welfare officers to support tracing and counselling efforts to young persons and families in distress.
- We call for rapid provision of food stuffs and other daily essentials to support quarantine and isolation efforts in schooling communities under distress
- We call for quality information and psychosocial support services to families and students who have tested positive in schools in order to minimise trauma and distress.
Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Elderly
We amplify the impact of COVID-19 on the elderly in Zimbabwe. We highlight that persons above the age of 70, make up 3% of the Zimbabwe population and as such, their experiences and living conditions are often overlooked in policy law and practice. In particular, we highlight the increased vulnerabilities faced by the elderly as families who are hard hit and are struggling to recover socially and economically, have shifted from the social tradition of elderly care by abandoning them on the streets or placing them in homes and/or in the care of community centres. We highlight reports that indicate that care homes in Zimbabwe are reporting a 60% increase in admission in their centres. We note that of the 170 elderly person care facilities in Zimbabwe, most of these are currently full. Thus, the majority of elderly persons in Zimbabwe have indeed become part of the “silent victims” of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, we draw attention to the inter-sectionality of the experiences of the elderly against a context where 49% of households in Zimbabwe are living in extreme poverty (World Bank). Data reveals that the majority of rural households are facing increased hunger as we are in the lean seasons, while 80% of urban households are struggling to secure food supplies.
- We urge direct increased state support to community centres, care homes and homes of elderly persons, especially as the majority of care homes in Zimbabwe do not charge residents, who are indigent for the support.
- We call for shift in the development partner support to ensure that care homes and homes for the elderly are directly supported in food and other resources.
- We call for increased awareness campaigns to support the elderly in Zimbabwe in particular to raise awareness of negative practices on care for the elderly.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe