AS Zimbabwe continues to record an increase in Covid-19 cases and deaths, many people, especially those in the country’s informal sector, are contemplating downgrading on funeral and medical aid cover.
On Monday, the country recorded 70 deaths bringing the number of people who have succumbed to the pandemic to 1075.
Then on yesterday, Zimbabwe had a cumulative 1 103 Covid-19 deaths after 28 more were recorded.
Harare recorded 13 deaths, Bulawayo 2, Manicaland 1, Mashonaland Central 2, Mashonaland East 1, Mashonaland West 3, Midlands 2, Masvingo 1, and Matabeleland South 3.
At a time the increased Covid-19 cases have instilled fear in many the cost of medical aid cover continues to soar beyond the reach of many.
Most medical aid service providers have continued to increase charges and these have gone beyond the reach of many even the employed.
Most in the informal sector interviewed by The Herald said they are now contemplating downgrading while others have quit.
Others now consider medical aid a luxury saying they sometimes fail to access medical services as some of the nearest health facilities have closed due to Covid-19.
Some private doctors do not accept medical aid opting for cash while others charge top ups which can be very prohibitive.
“We are tired of being milked out of our hard earned cash yet there is poor service provision from some funeral parlours and medical aid service providers. Most of us are now relying on traditional medicine such as zumbani, gavakava, guava tree leaves, eucalyptus leaves in fighting Covid-19 because most of the time we visit health facilities the doctors and nurses won’t be available,” said Mr Tinashe Mutongi of Chitungwiza suburb.
While the above remedies are not scientifically proven to cure Covid-19, people are taking them.
Another resident, Colleta Change of Sunningdale, Harare echoed the same sentiments.
“I have since stopped paying my funeral cover contributions and currently I’m still considering to opt out from health insurance. Whenever I visit the physicians, I’m charged extra charges in foreign currency. I have also seen some patients being turned away from hospitals and clinics due to incapacitation of staff. This means whether one has medical aid or not he or she can fail to access services. It is better to have cash in foreign currency,” she said.
She added that the fears of contracting Covid-19 at health facilities like hospitals after several medical practioners tested positive country wide also hindered communities from accessing services.
Some also said they were considering not paying for certain services to funeral insurance companies.
“I am a vendor and not getting any money because of the lockdown. It is quite difficult to continue paying for funeral cover. If anything, we no longer do body viewing as a result of Covid-19. I am sure some funeral palours charged us for dressing body etc. With people not doing any body viewing because of Covid-19 restrictions why should I pay for such a service,” said Harare a resident Mary Moyo.
Sekuru Peter Maponda a traditionalist in Chitungwiza said: “Why should we pay them (funeral parlours) because chances are high that they can bury the wrong person since people are no longer allowed to do body viewing due to the Covid-19. In South Africa we have heard of cases whereby wrong bodies were buried due to poor identification. Covid-19 restrictions have become a hindrance even to our cultural practice of burying the departed ones. Our loved ones are being buried by strangers therefore chances of many people who will be applying for the exhumation of bodies for re-burial in the near future are high,” Sekuru Maponda.
He said funeral and medical insurance policies should restructure their fees through lowering them to suit the lower services that they are rendering to their clients.
“We used to contribute for ‘Mabhodho” for the provision of food during the funeral wake, transport for the close family to escort the deceased to their burial place, usually rural destinations, but due to Covid-19 restrictions things have changed. Many people are now being buried locally which calls for a change in fares,’” Sekuru Maponda added.