As Covid-19 numbers steadily increase across the country, the need for advanced coronavirus testing and contact tracing remains urgent, says the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), which also urged the government to develop messaging that provided full detail on the country’s vaccination roll-out programme.
Conducting Covid-19 testing is crucial as public health officials rely on the results to track the state of the pandemic while policymakers use this information to guide decisions on implementing or lifting national lockdown orders.
As of 10 February, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said Zimbabwe recorded 34 864 confirmed Covid-19 cases including 29 471 recoveries and 1 364 deaths.
3 561 Covid-19 tests were done on the day with a positivity rate of 2.3 percent.
WCoZ, made up of a collective network of organisational and individual members highlighted concerns from the public who were not fully confident in the efficacy of tracing and testing currently underway.
WCOZ submitted that in the absence of mass community testing and public accounting for local transmission case tracing, it was impossible to determine the appropriate reflection of the Covid-19 prevalence in Zimbabwe.
“We urge a complete reprioritisation of mass-based community testing and further reinforce our call for an advanced testing strategy in the public sector,” said the coalition.
The coalition also urged the government to update the nation on the progress of testing of all members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and lockdown enforcement officers who were carrying out lockdown orders.
WCoZ said the country had entered over 30 days of the second hard lockdown yet were also worried about the country’s Covid-19 vaccine programme.
“We urge the government to develop messaging that addresses numerous fears, myths, and speculations, which communities may have in anticipation of the vaccine roll-out programme. We call for the government to update the nation on the progress regarding the tracing of the variants in circulation within the Zimbabwean population urgently prior to the inception of the vaccine programme,” said the coalition.
WCoZ also amplified press reports that indicated “a very serious discrepancy” regarding the commitment and participation of Zimbabwe in the World Health Organisation (WHO) led COVAX vaccine facility, touted as the mechanism that is due to lead in providing support to Zimbabwe’s access to vaccines.
“We are concerned it appears that the Zimbabwean government to date has not actually signed onto the facility. The lack of administrative actions to make sure that the country is indeed preparing for the COVAX facility is indicative of a dereliction of duty. This is despite the numerous government officials indicating that the country is in the process of securing and preparing to deploy vaccines from the COVAX facility,” said WCOZ.
The women’s coalition described this policy position as “untenable” and called on Zimbabwe’s parliament to urgently engage the executive “on the matter which is critical national interest.”
On Wednesday at a press conference, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa said Zimbabwe would receive its first batch of 800 000 vaccine doses from China.
She said the country had received 200 000 SINOPHARM Covid-19 vaccine doses as donations from the Chinese Government, while the country also purchased 600 000 jabs from the same country and an aircraft would be dispatched to China on February 13, 2021, to collect the vaccines.
“This vaccine, which has 76 to 86 percent efficacy, has been endorsed by the WHO and is already being used in several countries. This donation and an initial batch of 600 000 doses which the Government has purchased are expected in the country by February 15, 2021, and the first week of March 2021 respectively. An aircraft will be dispatched to China no later than February 13, 2021, to collect these vaccine doses,” Mutsvangwa said.
“Russia has donated some of its Sputnik V vaccines, with negotiations ongoing for the procurement of more vaccines. India has also promised to provide vaccines and Zimbabwe is expecting some vaccines through the African Union vaccination programme.”
Reports also said the world’s largest diamond producer, Alrosa, pledged to buy Russian made Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccines to Zimbabwe and Angola.