537 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of 16th of September 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 127 368 after 285 new cases, all local cases, were recorded. The highest case tally was recorded in Matebeleland South with 72 cases. We note that the Hospitalisation rate as at 15:00hrs on 15th September 2021 was 119 hospitalised cases: 8 new admissions, 16 asymptomatic cases, 81 mild-to-moderate cases, 22 severe cases and 0 cases in Intensive Care Units.
Active cases went down to 2 808. The total number of recoveries went up to 120 000 increasing by 213 recoveries. The recovery rate remains at 94%. A total of 16 377 people received their 1st dose of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 2 908 514. A total of 38 929 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 2 001 987. The death toll went up to 4 560 after 9 new deaths were recorded.
Critical Emerging Issue
Blanket Mandatory Vaccination and the Rise of Vaccination Card Black Market
We highlight with concern, the blanket mandatory vaccination orders being enforced in the public and private sectors driven by increased controls on access to socio-economic activities and spaces. We note with concern the drive to continue on a mandatory vaccination path which is in direct contrast and contradiction of the High Court order on the matter which indicated the unjustifiable discrimination being metered out by such mandatory vaccination decrees.
We are further distressed that such mandatory vaccination orders are not supported by any substantive consideration on persons with underlying medical conditions which may increase vulnerabilities to adverse effects of vaccination. Furthermore, we continue to raise concern on shifting positions – not supported by substantive research or medical advice on vaccination for pregnant women or lactating mothers.
While applauding the efforts of various societies in engaging with the public and undertaking significant public health awareness initiatives on the importance of vaccination, we continue to critique the non-responsive and unexpanded vaccination program on the ground in real terms.
It is against this context that we highlight increased reports of individuals who are opting into the black market to secure vaccination cards as proof of vaccines without getting vaccinated. We note with concern that the increased pressure has been created by the resumption of the education sector requiring teachers, and sometimes learners to be fully vaccinated.
- We recommend that vaccination points be established at community markets, clothing markets and livelihoods centres including bus stops for ZUPCO and the rail stations.
- We continue to call for an expansion of the vaccination program with support to resettlement communities, agricultural services centres, grain depots, collection points and mining communities.
- We call for a revision of information strategies in addressing concerns regarding getting vaccinated.
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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe