1. Zimbabwe Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak
The Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Task Force on COVID-19, Honourable Vice President K.C.D. Mohadi presented the weekly report on the National Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak, which was adopted by Cabinet. Cabinet was informed that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had increased to three hundred and eighty-seven (387), compared to the two hundred and eighty-seven (287) reported on 8 June, 2020. The number of those who have recovered from the disease has also increased from the previously reported forty-six (46) to fifty-four (54), while the number of deaths remains at four (4). The number of active cases now therefore stands at three hundred and twenty nine (329).
Cabinet notes that, though the number of confirmed cases remains higher than what it was at the inception of the Lockdown, it is flattening, indicating the need to strengthen the control measures currently in place, especially pertaining to returnees, in order to ensure a decline in cases. The trend in the new cases continues to be that recent cases are mostly from returnees, including those from South Africa and Botswana. Currently, there are two thousand three hundred and fifty two (2 352) returnees at quarantine centres countrywide. Focus will therefore continue to be put on testing returnees, separating the positive cases from the negatives before transporting them to the various quarantine centres across the country’s provinces.
In preparation for the impending opening of schools, it is pleasing to note that considerable progress has been made in vacating returnees from schools that were being used as quarantine centres. Efforts to refurbish the identified alternative centres are being enhanced. However, some teachers are illegally conducting extra lessons in violation of lockdown regulations. Such practices, which endanger the lives of the children in question, should be stopped forthwith. On a related matter, most Universities have re-opened, and final year students are accommodated on campus while continuing students are studying online. Law enforcement agencies have also expanded the scope of their operations to include enforcing regulations forbidding truckers from carrying passengers, with fifty three (53) truck drivers having been arrested so far.
Highlights of Cabinet discussions and resolutions in other areas of the National Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak are as outlined below.
(a) That in addition to targeted testing at the ports of entry and quarantine centres, random sampling will be conducted in strategically selected populations using the risk-based approach in order to obtain COVID-19 test results that are more representative of Zimbabwean society.
(b) With respect to the use of Hydroxychloroquine and Alpha Interferon drugs, it is clarified that the Alpha Interferon is yet to be utilised since there are currently no critical Covid-19 patients in the country. The drug is used on critical cases only and not on mild cases. There are no critical active cases in the country. Related to this, it is advised that traditional medicines from both local and external sources will be subject to standing approval processes in terms of clinical trials and use by the public.
(c) In addition to the strict measures on returnees outlined above, there is need for enhanced cooperation and coordination with regard to facilitating the smooth and orderly transit of SADC nationals across regional borders. Engagements are underway to ensure that returnees are tested and their status made known to the receiving country as Zimbabwe recently did with some Malawians that were transiting by bus through Zimbabwe.
(d) Government is looking into ways of assisting students stranded in foreign lands. This entails proper identification and needs assessment of beneficiaries as well as determining the most appropriate assistance, including assistance at beneficiaries’ own expense.
(e) As regards the production of personal protective equipment (PPE), the Standards Association of Zimbabwe has reduced certification fees for SMEs and Government institutions. Statutory Instrument 124 of 2020 was gazetted providing for consignment-based conformity assessment and standards of all imported PPE and sanitizers.
2. Reopening of Registered and Organised Micro-Enterprises
Cabinet was briefed that the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development has developed a strategy to reopen registered and organized micro enterprises. The strategy helps to formalize the sector and ensure sustainability even in the post COVID-19 period.
The strategy will involve a phased approach based on micro-enterprises market hubs. Each individual market will be required to satisfy the COVID-19 public health guidelines, which include testing for temperature at entry points, sanitization, mandatory wearing of face masks and social distancing in the market.
The markets will be expected to have adequate water for handwashing and ablution facilities. Alternatively, mobile toilets will be made available.
Only registered micro-enterprises will be facilitated to access the ZW$ 500 million SMEs Support Fund put forward by Government to aid the recovery of the sector.
Cottage industries are also expected to start operations subject to meeting the same COVID-19 conditions for opening of all businesses in general.