605 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of 23rd of November 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 133 707 after 33 new cases all local cases, were recorded. The highest case tally was recorded in Harare with 11 cases. We note that the Hospitalisation rate data as at 15:00hrs on 22 November 2021, 24 hospitalised cases: 6 New Admissions, 1 Asymptomatic cases, 17 mild-to-moderate cases, 2 severe cases and 4 cases in Intensive Care Units. A total of 15 743 people received their 1st doses of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 3 696 379. A total of 5 134 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 2 757 486. Active cases remain at 510. The total number of recoveries went up to 128 494 increasing by 29 recoveries. The recovery rate remains at 96%. The death toll went up to 4 703 as 4 new deaths were recorded.
We note with concern, for a third consecutive day a drastic drop in vaccinations over the recent days following a period of four consecutive days with a high vaccination rate. We urge continued reviews of vaccination best practices to ensure the vaccination target of “50 000 vaccines per day” is actually met and to ensure that the country is ahead of the infections by consistency in vaccination.
Critical Emerging Issue
Safety of COVID-19 vaccines for use by pregnant women and nursing mothers
We note with concern the latest guidance issued by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), on COVID-19 vaccination of pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. The guidance indicates that clinical information on currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines in Zimbabwe do not include indication for use by pregnant women and nursing mothers. Summarily, in our own interpretation, the guidance seems to suggest that women belonging to this special group and desiring to get vaccinated, should do so at their own peril and from an informed decision. This confirms our fears and concerns which we have continuously raised on the safety of vaccines in pregnant women and nursing mothers, amidst varying conflicting advice from medical experts. In addition, we fear that we may be witnessing another devastating emerging gender divide in the global COVID-19 response and equality in access to health services.
- We urge a robust awareness-raising and women-centred information dissemination campaign to communities especially targeting remote, rural, marginalized and hard to reach areas.
- We urge Government, health institutions and the world over, to expedite clinical researches on safe COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Increasing Number of Escapees from Quarantine Centres
We are concerned with reports from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) regarding the increased number of persons escaping from quarantine centres. We note that this is a notable weakness in infection control measures, especially against the background of a policy position that ‘every person traveling into Zimbabwe and not able to present a valid COVID-19 PCR tests at ports of entry shall be subjected to enter quarantine for 10 days at their own expense.’
- We therefore call for consideration of drivers of such escapes, with one significant factor being the costs of quarantine versus the conditions of the quarantine centres themselves.
- We urge Government to revise the costs of quarantine centres.
- We urge Government to ensure the best living conditions at quarantine centres and for quarantine centres to have their status revoked if they are found to be falling short of maintaining their respective standards.
- In addition, we further call for a review of travel regulations in line with new international travel standards and guidelines which dictate that if travelling persons present valid full vaccination certificates, they may enter without PCR tests and vice versa.
Reporting on COVID-19 Variants in Zimbabwe
We raise with concern outstanding matters pertaining to national updates of both Variants of Interest and Variants of Concern in circulation in Zimbabwe. We reiterate and amplify concerns raised by heath workers regarding inadequate tracing and underreporting of the status of variants. This is particularly critical in the face of ongoing real word relaxations of COVID-19 measures, excessively weakened enforcement of regulations and low numbers of vaccination in the national population at a time when Zimbabwe is about to enter a period of increased social and economic movements prior to the Christmas break. Whilst we are fully aware of the continuing measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe in particular travel related containment measures, we continue to seek an update regarding the tracking and tracing of COVID-19 Variants of Concern in circulation in Zimbabwe. Variant monitoring and the public sharing of the same are critical elements in public health measures and sustained community vigilance and public adherence to anti-COVID-19 measures.
We note the concerns of communities to the potential presence of the variants which have been identified in South Africa and also the potential changes in the variants and mutations which were already circulating locally.
- We urge the Ministry of Health and Child Care to update on the current mutations and variants identified and in circulation in Zimbabwe
- We specifically call or for full reporting on Variants of Interest and Variants of Concern tracked and traced locally.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe