While preparations continue for a safe reopening of schools, Government wants to see full enforcement and compliance of the enhanced Level 4 lockdown put in place last month and last week and is funding several measures to make that easier.
The start of the second term will see a combination of face-to-face teaching, remote home learning, community learning and the use of alternative platforms such as e-learning, radio and television, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said after the Cabinet meeting yesterday.
All schools are at present being inspected to ensure they have finalised their Covid-19 preventative measures and have the basic equipment they need.
After hearing provincial reports of the difficulty of enforcement of lockdown regulations, with funerals singled out as spreaders of infection and the need for more equipment so public servants can work from home, the Treasury was directed to release funds to enable the enforcement of the lockdown measures announced by President Mnangagwa recently.
Anyone wanting exemption from a lockdown measure will now require the more formal process in place at the start of the lockdown last year when anyone sought a variation.
Zimbabwe was put into an enhanced lockdown last week, with more limited business hours, a tighter curfew, 60 percent workplace decongestion and a ban on intercity passenger traffic.
That was in addition to the ban on social and religious gatherings imposed last month, with the exception of funerals although these are limited to 30 people.
The country is facing a surge in infections, with 1 949 new cases and 28 deaths yesterday.
Ministers had been visiting the provinces and reports indicated compliance of the lockdown was constrained by a number of factors,
There was a shortage of some PPE; misinformation on vaccines about their alleged negative effects; and shortage of health care workers at some stations.
Some district hospitals, such as Nyanga and Chipinge require bulk oxygen tanks, while some like Zvimba in Mashonaland West, and Plumtree and Gwanda in Matabeleland South required functional isolation centres.
Construction work at Mvurwi Hospital in Mashonaland Central needed to be expeditiously completed to meet the current rising demand;
Funerals were singled out as major spreaders of infection within the provinces. Environmental health workers and police were now enforcing the 30-person limit and while village health workers were playing their part in educating villagers, the Cabinet wanted traditional leaders to be more visible and forceful in the enforcement of lockdown regulations.
Public servants were facing problems of inadequate tools of trade such as desktops, laptops and vehicles including provision of adequate data to ensure compliance of the requirement that only 40 percent of staff should be at workstations with the rest working from home.
All efforts are being made to redress the situation.
There was often poor network connectivity for both staff reporting for duty and those working from home and some provincial taskforces indicated that there was erratic fuel supply and inadequate vehicles for operations.
“Given the above challenges, Cabinet has directed that Treasury urgently releases the first tranche of the $368.2 million it had committed towards funding the enforcement of Level 4 lockdown measures.
“This will reinforce the current efforts of containing the spread of Covid-19.
“The nation is advised that the exemption mechanism which were used during the first lockdown in 2020 will be reactivated with immediate effect. Stiffer penalties will be imposed for violations of Covid-19 restrictions, including the withdrawal of business operating licences.”
Plans continue to reopen schools for the second term but Government will institute adequate control measures informed by the guidelines of the World Health Organisation.
The resumption of classes was initially scheduled for last week, but that was then deferred for at least two weeks. Minister Mutsvangwa said the Ministry of Health and Child Care, in conjunction with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, are working on modalities for a safe resumption of lessons.
“With regard to primary and secondary education, the nation is advised that in preparation for the opening of schools for the second term, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, has instituted the following contingency measures: Inspection visits being carried out to assess the state of preparedness at all boarding schools, high enrolment day schools and schools with very limited infrastructure; ensuring adequate WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) provisions at every school; completion of Covid-19 Infection Prevention and Control training workshops for teaching and non-teaching staff; (and) confirmation of Covid-19 essential supplies in all districts.
“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is working on modalities to enable a blend of face-to-face classroom learning, remote learning at home and in communities, as well as alternative learning platforms, such as e-learning, radio and television,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
Cabinet noted that active cases now exceeded 12 000, with 8 042 new cases recorded in the last week compared to 3 882 reported the previous week. But just, 356 patients have been admitted in hospitals countrywide, representing a 21 percent occupancy rate so Zimbabwe is coping.
“The worst affected provinces are Mashonaland West with 2 114, Mashonaland Central with 2 957; Harare Metropolitan with 1 041 Mashonaland East with 847, and Midlands with 848.
Minister Mutsvangwa said companies and universities, have enough raw materials to increase production of personal protective equipment, stocks and medicines which are used to manage Covid-19 symptoms.
Minister Mutsvangwa said measures are being put in place to ensure that all hospitals have adequate facilities to meet any surges in demand during this third wave.
Cabinet received an update on Zimbabwe’s Response to the Covid-19 Outbreak, which was presented by the Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, as chairperson of the Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Task Force on the Covid-19 Outbreak.
As at July 4, 2021, Zimbabwe’s cumulative Covid-19 cases stood at 54 474, with 40 239 recoveries and 1 878 deaths. The recovery rate stands at 74 percent, with 97 percent of Covid-19 positive cases being attributable to local transmission. The number of active cases stands at 12 357.
Cabinet received an update on the procurement and roll out of the Covid-19 Vaccines, which was presented by the Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga.
By Monday, a total of 795 171 people had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 569 091 their second dose across the country.
The roll out of vaccines to hotspot areas and border posts is in full swing with a total of 1 800 vaccinated at Chirundu border post, out of a total of 2 641 adults who are eligible for vaccination.
The vaccination exercise at the people’s markets at Mbare Musika and Highfield is proceeding well.
The distribution of the Sinopharm vaccine to provinces started on Friday and every province received 15 000 first doses except for Harare Metropolitan, Manicaland and Mashonaland West Provinces which received 20 000 doses each.
The largest single order so far, 2 million doses from China, is expected by Thursday.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has dispatched eight oxygen concentrators and 1 420 pulse oximeters to provincial and district hospitals, in support of the virtual hospitals concept and the ministry is in the process of procuring 3 000 oxygen concentrators, pulse oximeters, thermometers, glucometers and blood pressure machines.