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Zimbabwe Coronavirus Update | Coronavirus-COVID-19 Updates

Zimbabwe Coronavirus Update |Coronavirus-COVID-19 Updates in Zimbabwe

Travelling to and from Zimbabwe

National measures

On 17th March the following measures were put in place in regard to travel to/from Zimbabwe are:

  • Zimbabweans traveling to,  through and from high risk countries are discouraged to do so from 20th March – 20th April
  • Travelers from high risk countries are encouraged to postpone their travel arrangements from  20th March – 20th April
  • Non-essential travel is discouraged
  • All major entry ports into the country will remain operational, screening and testing will be vigorous
  • All small border crossings are closed until further notice
  • Gatherings of more than 100 people are suspended for 60 days

Leaving Zimbabwe

Should you want to leave Zimbabwe, you are advised to do this as soon as possible by commercial means. Given the rapidly changing situation including the reduction in flights please make travel plans as soon as possible. For information on the measures at airlines check the website of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) (https://www.iatatravelcentre.com/international-travel-document-news/1580226297.htm)

You are advised to factor in the current situation in the Netherlands and the probable risks related to the level of health care in Zimbabwe in case of a breakout of COVID-19 in the country.

For urgent matters please call +263(0) 772 236 150 / +263(0) 772 236 151 or email har@minbuza.nl

Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions in Zimbabwe – updated 18 June, 2020

Borders have closed to non-residents. Arrivals are subject to a mandatory 21-day quarantine at a government facility, including anyone who has a certificate to declare they are coronavirus free.

From 12 June, some restrictions have been relaxed in the country, following strict level 2 lockdown measures. People should still limit their travel to necessities. From 4 May, masks must be worn in public.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa eased restrictions on movement implemented in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, to revive the nation’s struggling economy.

The measures include allowing the informal sector, including open markets, to resume operations and churches to reopen, Mnangagwa said in a speech Friday in the capital, Harare. Residents will be allowed to travel throughout the country when necessary, he said.

“From the pains of the pandemic, we must now find new impetus to rebuild,” he said. “The liberalization of our economy must continue in earnest. Reforms stuck in the wheels of bureaucracy must be unleashed, catalyzed and implemented.”

Zimbabwe has 332 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the latest data from the health ministry. Formal businesses have been allowed to operate during the lockdown, with the wearing of masks in public made mandatory.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa eased restrictions on movement implemented in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, to revive the nation’s struggling economy.

The measures include allowing the informal sector, including open markets, to resume operations and churches to reopen, Mnangagwa said in a speech Friday in the capital, Harare. Residents will be allowed to travel throughout the country when necessary, he said.

“From the pains of the pandemic, we must now find a new impetus to rebuild,” he said. “The liberalization of our economy must continue in earnest. Reforms stuck in the wheels of bureaucracy must be unleashed, catalyzed and implemented.”

Zimbabwe has 332 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the latest data from the health ministry. Formal businesses have been allowed to operate during the lockdown, with the wearing of masks in public made mandatory.

Over the last few weeks we have been tracking what’s been happening in our rural study sites in Zimbabwe as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown (see the earlier blog too). Last week, I caught up with a colleague in Masvingo who had been recently in touch with others in our team in Chatsworth, Chikombedzi, Hippo Valley, Matobo, Mvurwi and Wondedzo. This blog is a report on current conditions, summarising a long phone conversation.

The lockdown was first announced by the President Mnangagwa on 30 March, and was subsequently extended on 19 April for a further 14 days. As of April 26 there were 31 reported cases and 4 deaths, spread unevenly across the country. But of course the fear is that the disease will spread and strike hard. The lockdown measures have been heavily enforced and have caused massive hardship, particularly in the poorer urban areas, where informal traders in particular have been targeted. Farmers have suffered too due to movement restrictions and the collapse of markets.

As my conversation last week revealed, Zimbabwe’s experience, like elsewhere in Africa, raises questions as to the costs of a heavy-handed lockdown, particularly on the poor and marginalised, and whether there are alternative approaches both to confront the virus now and for different approaches to society and economy in the future.

How have movement restrictions affected people’s lives in the rural areas?

Massively. Although you can go to the local shops (between 9am and 3pm) and move about your area, you cannot move further without a permit, and have to prove that travel is essential. Security people can stop you at any moment. You can get a permit from Agritex (extension service) locally for agriculture-related movement, or from the councillor or police. But if you have to move further you have to go to the provincial level. It can take days. You can try your luck and negotiate at the road-blocks, but you will likely be turned back. There are so many police out – they’re everywhere! There is no public transport these days. If you travel in your private vehicle, you can only have two people. All the private Kombis and buses are grounded. ZUPCO (a government-owned company) operate buses, which are disinfected after each trip, but there are very few. This has had a disastrous effect on business, and farmers cannot get crops to market. Right now people need workers to help with the harvest, and although this is allowed as agriculture is essential, you can easily be stopped, and it makes getting help on the farm more difficult than before.

So what about agricultural produce markets?

It’s a disaster. All the main ones have been shut down. There was an outcry and they opened them again for a bit, but people crowded there. It was chaos, so they shut them again. This means for horticultural farmers in our study areas things are tough. Vegetables, especially cabbages and tomatoes, are rotting at their farms. In the south, huge number of melons have gone to waste. For some, vegetable-drying is possible, and people are creating ‘mufushwa’ in large quantities. But overall it’s a disaster. Some are selling individually, travelling to the ‘locations’ (high density suburbs) and selling from their pick-ups. Some can sell to the supermarkets if they have contracts, but demand has gone down. You can’t move from the location to town in Masvingo without permission, and so people just buy locally, informally. Other markets have also dried up. The boarding schools are closed, so are the universities, along with all hotels, restaurants and so on. These all used to be so important for horticulture markets, as well as for poultry. Income from these sources has ceased. Same too with the massive church gatherings, attended by thousands. In some of our sites, people had been growing for the Easter gatherings, but now they have had to dispose of the produce. It’s a disaster for farmers.

What about businesses more generally?

Most of these are closed. It means that as a farmer you can’t get your pump repaired, or a car fixed. You can’t go and buy key bits of equipment. Even if the shop opens for a short time, which some are allowed to, getting a permit to travel from you rural farm and ensuring you are there at the right time is impossible. A big problem is cash. This has been a problem for a time. The electronic RTGS Zim dollar is worth less than the Zimbabwe bond notes, but people are not keen to use cash notes as it might transfer the virus. Even if you have money in the bank, you cannot get it. They’ve opened banks only for forex, and for short periods, to allow remittances from the diaspora to be paid. This is vital for many of us, including farmers.

How are people surviving?

The rural people are on their own. There is a big chain reaction – without markets, producers, transporters, and all others suffer. And then there is no cash to buy food or other inputs. For example, there is a big theileriosis disease outbreak among cattle currently, but people have not been able to buy spray dip chemicals and cattle are dying in numbers. They cannot be driven to other places to avoid the ticks, so they just die. Of course people in the rural areas are in some way better off. It’s the beginning of the main harvest season and, although the season was bad, people at least have something. It’s much tougher in town. There’s subsidised mealie-meal, but a packet of 10kg that should be Z$70 it’s being sold for Z$90. Traders are exploiting the situation. Some are illegally doing business. In one study site the grinding mills open at night to allow people to get food. The money changers operate under cover and there is a growth of private business, from people’s homes, including brewing beer, baking and selling food. In the south, some are even risking crossing the border to get supplies for resale in South Africa. The danger is that they can smuggle the virus too.

What are some of the social issues emerging?

Certainly there are reports of increased domestic violence. People cannot go out, and tensions rise. Some are consuming illegal brews – including spirits made at home. This can be dangerous, just like we are seeing increased drug use among the youth. Normal life is disrupted. You cannot even bury the dead – you again need a permit, and a health worker has to be present to supervise the burial, and a maximum of 50 can attend, but following social distancing rules. Travelling to funerals is impossible if outside your area. Family relations – and life in general – are being challenged by this virus.

What about health services?

Yes the clinics and hospitals are open. The problem is that you have to get a permit to move. And then the nurses at a clinic may not see you. They don’t always have the full personal protective equipment (PPE) and are really scared. Even though there are no cases in Masvingo as yet, people may be dying of malaria or childbirth complications or whatever, because of the lockdown. It’s killing people. The government is investing seriously in the health service, even employing more health workers. They are creating emergency beds, even in the rural areas, but it may not be enough. We have seen what has happened in Europe and the US on the news.

What are people’s attitudes to COVID-19?

People ask, what disease is this? Where has it come from? It is such a shock! There are so many rumours. People say it’s God’s revenge; they blame the superpowers; they say it has been manufactured to kill us. But mostly people are just scared. They have seen the news. We know pandemics, we had HIV/AIDS, but this is worse. It’s the number 1 disease. With AIDS people died over a long time, but this is sudden. With HIV you knew how it was transmitted, and people changed their behaviour. It could be avoided. This is just meeting someone – it’s so contagious. Even thought he’s allowed, one of our colleagues who works with Agritex was moving around and was told in one village to go home – to ‘keep to your place’!

Who are the main people involved in the response?

There are so many. The government actually has organised quite well, it is doing something. Before they’d forgotten the health system – there was a freeze on health posts, people were paid badly and the hospitals and clinics were in a terrible state. Now they see the importance. This crisis has at last awakened the administration. For years we haven’t had an effective health service, but now something at least is happening. In each area there are COVID-19 task-forces – and mines, business people, well-off individuals and others are contributing resources. The universities and some business are making things – sanitiser, masks, PPE materials and so on. It’s a joint effort with government. The chiefs are involved too, and so are the spirit mediums who are seeking spiritual help to get through the crisis. The churches are doing the same; although they are not meeting, the church leaders, prophets and others are mobilising. Everyone is praying! There are WhatsApp groups giving advice on what to do, including some ideas for remedies. There seems to be a unified approach, and all the political parties are involved.

What next?

So far we haven’t suffered from the disease, only the lockdown. We have a few cases only. We accept that this lockdown period is for building the capacity of the health system to cope. Let’s hope that’s possible. It’s a Catch 22. We see what has happened in the UK, US and even South Africa. We don’t want this to happen here. But with lockdown most people are surviving hand-to-mouth. Life has become very, very difficult. There is mass suffering, and so far in Masvingo we haven’t had a single case recorded. Is it worth it? I don’t know, but everyone is very scared. Maybe there can be a process where kids can go to school, markets can open and we can move around because we cannot go on like this for long. There must be ways to make the places where lots of people gather safe – schools, transport hubs, markets, shops, religious gatherings and so on. Surely we can think of ways. Good hygiene, distancing and so on. Once the health service is adequate and built up things will be better; maybe there will be some anti-viral medicines too, like we have for HIV. Hopefully we can then live with the virus, and still survive.

What lessons can we draw from the experience so far?

We know that health services are important, and the government needs to invest. We know that farmers are essential and contribute to combatting a crisis, especially getting food to urban areas. We also know that lockdowns are really impossible – and they can kill. They may be worse than the virus! We also know that we can do things ourselves. Good diets bring immunity. There are traditional remedies that may help. And hygiene in the home and at work is always important. In the past we used to be self-reliant, making and selling things locally. There were often big crises, such as droughts, but our parents had granaries to tide them over. In future, we have to be prepared, we have to use our own resources. In the past we used to make things ourselves, not go to the shop to buy. Why are we importing so many things like face-masks? We can make them. We produce huge amounts of ethanol from sugar, so we can make sanitisers. We have forgotten self-reliance. We have been taught a very big lesson by this virus. We should not rely on the outside, and individuals and households have to take the responsibility ourselves.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed the nation on Saturday, May 16, to announce that the lockdown measures put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be extended indefinitely. The country will remain under Level 2 lockdown, implemented on Thursday, March 30, and the government will assess the situation at two-week intervals. Alongside the extension, Mnangagwa did announce some slight relaxation of measures, including the extension of shop opening hours to between 08:00 to 16:30 (local time), from 09:00 to 15:00 previously. Most other measures remain in place.

Under the lockdown measures, citizens are expected to stay at home, except to seek medical assistance, buy food, and receive other essential services. Wearing a face mask in public spaces is mandatory. All public transportation services, except Zupco, remain suspended except for employees in essential services. Security personnel have been deployed across the country to ensure the public comply with the lockdown measures. The manufacturing, mining, public, and health sectors are exempt from the aforementioned measures.

Zimbabwe’s borders remain closed to foreign nationals and public gatherings of more than 50 people continue to be prohibited.

As of Sunday, May 17, there have been 44 confirmed COVID-19 cases and four associated fatalities in the country. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.

Zimbabwe’s leader has extended a lockdown to contain COVID-19, which has officially infected 42 people in the poverty-stricken nation.  Public health experts say the extension is the right move, but jobless informal workers are asking the government to pay them.

In a televised address, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Saturday that he was worried by the increase in cases of local transmission of the coronavirus in Zimbabwe and that the country was not yet in a position to lift the lockdown.

“Zimbabwe will therefore continue on Level 2 lockdown for an indefinite period,” he said. “We shall have regular two-week interval reviews to assess progress or lack of it. This should give us more time to strengthen the prevention and case management approaches for the various risk populations. … Social and physical distancing will continue to be maintained and enforced at all times. I appeal to our people to exercise greater discipline in this regard.”

The United Nations says Zimbabwe is facing a plethora of humanitarian problems, such as recurring droughts, food insecurity and a collapsing economy, and needs international assistance.

One of those feeling the pinch is Trevor River, 28, who sells building materials in one of Harare’s poor townships. He wants the government to pay him as long as there is a lockdown and he can’t work.

“The lockdown is quite difficult,” River said. “The impact we are facing right now is quite huge because we are no longer selling. The source of our income has been cut short. So it’s quite difficult for us to survive.”

Earlier this week, police arrested some members of the political opposition who participated in a demonstration demanding that the government pay those who can’t earn a living because of the coronavirus lockdown.

Fortune Nyamande, head of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, said the country was still far from ready to lift its lockdown. He said he sympathized, though, with the unemployed, who have had no source of income since late March, when restrictions were imposed.

“The WHO [World Health Organization] specifies that for a country to a lift a lockdown, a country must not have a widespread community transmission,” Nyamande said. “It must have conducted adequate testing so that it can reflect on the extent of the disease. The health system should be well-equipped to respond to a surge in cases of COVID[-19]. Then finally the government should have the capacity to test, isolate and trace all the contacts of all those who test positive for COVID 19.

“Basing on this criteria, we still think that there is still a lot to be done. But however, extending the lockdown without addressing these four fundamental issues raised by the WHO is futile.”

Some informal traders are not waiting for the government to pay them. They are defying the lockdown and flooding the streets of Harare, selling their wares to make money.

Zimbabwe and Namibia declared national emergencies on Tuesday as the coronavirus begins to spread in the region.

While southern Africa has had relatively few confirmed cases of Covid-19, governments fear the effect of its spread could overwhelm health systems. South Africa has declared a disaster and implemented strict measures including travel bans and school closures after infections increased to more than 60.

“The pandemic has reached our region and we have to escalate our response,” Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a speech in Harare, the capital.

Screening of travelers will be intensified and some borders will be closed, he said. Mnangagwa appealed to foreigners planning to visit Zimbabwe to postpone their plans for at least 30 days and “unnecessary” travel by Zimbabweans outside the country is prohibited.

The government has also postponed celebrations of the country’s 40th anniversary of independence, scheduled for the second-biggest city of Bulawayo, and banned gatherings of more than a 100 people by churches or at social events.

Namibia has closed schools for 30 days and banned all mass gatherings, while Zambia imposed restrictions on all foreign travel by nationals and advised people who returned from abroad to self-quarantine.

Zimbabwe and Zambia haven’t yet reported a case of the virus.

Zimbabwe has tightened restrictions in a bid to curtail the spread of the coronavirus as cases spike.

On Tuesday, security forces cleared Harare’s city centre as they turned back commuters and motorists.

“They are searching the cars and if you do not have a permit or letter you are not allowed to pass. So it’s now difficult to give a lift to someone who is not in possession of a letter’‘, Tawanda Chinohamba, a cab driver said.

In a statement, the police said only essential services workers are allowed outdoors, while the rest of the population must stay home.

COVID-19 cases spiked from 34 to 203 from early May, with most of the cases being citizens returning from abroad.

Four deaths have been registered. Last month restrictions were eased following a lock-down imposed on March 30, allowing large corporations to open but under strict safety conditions for staff and customers.

Government spokesman, Nick Mangwana said there was nothing unusual about the tightened restrictions

On May 1, the Zimbabwean government extended the existing nationwide lockdown through at least May 19 as part of its efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). However, authorities announced that they would ease restrictions on some businesses. While most informal markets will remain shut, some commercial operations can reopen, provided that they provide rapid testing and observe social distancing guidelines. Authorities also introduced curfew hours of 1500-0800.

The lockdown, which was initially imposed March 30, includes the suspension of all public activities and closure of most nonessential businesses. Other provisions within the order include:

  • All residents are required to wear face masks while in public.
  • Ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.
  • Most businesses to close, unless involved in manufacturing, supplying, or providing essential goods or services.
  • Public buses can now operate but must ensure social distancing guidelines and regularly engage in temperature checks and sterilization operations. However, taxis and other public small modes of transport are still banned from operating.
  • Indefinite closure of schools, religious centers, gyms, recreational facilities, and bars.
  • All returning residents and international travelers will be subject to 21 days of mandatory quarantine.
  • Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) will be deployed to assist in enforcement.

Zimbabwean authorities suspended all inbound and outbound commercial air travel, and closed all land borders to passenger traffic indefinitely on March 23. Cargo and freight shipments remain unaffected. All public events and gatherings were banned for 60 days starting March 16.

Zimbabwe arrested 1,312 people in the last 24 hours for flouting regulations aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus, local media reported Thursday.

National police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said most of the people who were arrested violated the ban on public gatherings while some of them were not wearing face masks.

“The police are making special efforts to track down those who have escaped from quarantine centers and those who have entered the country illegally,” Zimbabwe’s state-owned Herald newspaper reported.

Zimbabwe has arrested more than 52,000 people since a nationwide curfew was declared on March 31.

So far, the country has confirmed four deaths due to the coronavirus while the number of cases stood at 237.

After originating in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 188 countries and regions.

The pandemic has killed more than 391,000 people worldwide, with more than 6.6 million confirmed cases, while recoveries have surpassed 2.8 million, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University of the US.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a 21-day “total” lockdown from Monday that will curtail movement within the country.

Zimbabweans braced Sunday for a three-week lock-down to curb the spread of the coronavirus which has killed one person so far and infected six others, and for many, the lockdown means tough times ahead.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a 21-day “total” lockdown from Monday that will curtail movement within the country, shut most shops and banks, and suspend flights in and out of Zimbabwe.

With independent sources saying the official number of infections is understated, the spread of COVID-19 could prove devastating for a country whose economy is crippled by hyperinflation and whose social health care systems are crumbling.

Poor rains have exacerbated the crisis, with half of the 15-million-strong population facing severe food shortages.

“We are not against the lockdown,” said Isaac Sayeed, who runs a stationery stall in the capital, Harare.

“But 21 days is rather too long. We already have shortages of basic foodstuffs,” he said.

The looming lockdown has triggered panic-buying and a spike in prices, adding more upward pressure to an inflation rate that currently stands at 540 percent.

Price of cooking gas shot up almost 50 percent overnight.

Long queues have formed in supermarkets as people rush to buy whatever they can afford.

“We are supposed to stock up enough things to last us 21 days, but most of us live on what we earn daily, so we only manage a few groceries. I can see us facing tough times ahead,” said Sayeed.

The cash-strapped government will not be able to cushion businesses against the lockdown.

“If they failed to buy ventilators for the treatment centres, where will they get the money to shore up small businesses which are in the majority?” Sayeed asked.

Sayeed said his business would take a knock, but he did not dare ignore the lockdown, which will be imposed with both police and military patrols.

The lockdown will be “a huge challenge for most people who rely on their daily earnings to survive,” said Prince Gwanza who sells books and mobile phones.

– ‘Starving in their own homes’ –

“I can foresee people starving while confined in their homes. There are few people who can afford a square meal on an average day, to expect them to stock up for three weeks in to expect the impossible,” he said.

Economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labour and Economic Research Institute of Zimbabwe think-tank also warned that the impact of the lockdown would be “severe in terms of livelihoods. We are a highly informalised economy.”

According to independent statistics, as many as 90 percent of the employable population do not have formal jobs and many choose to emigrate.

“Most people have no access to social protection and companies are not getting the huge bailouts that those in other countries are getting.”

Trade unionist Japhet Moyo said that “most people are living from hand to mouth and some companies may not recover after this”.

“While we are aware of the disastrous effects of the lockdown on the economy, we are faced with a choice whether it’s better to save lives and rebuild tomorrow.”

President Mnangagwa, who took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017 with the backing of the military, has struggled to revive the moribund economy and curb hyperinflation.

The public healthcare system already faces shortages of basic drugs and lacks essential equipment and running water. But doctors and nurses staged a walkout last week in protest over a lack of protective clothing to care for coronavirus patients.

On 30th January 2020, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
With COVID-19 cases increasing worldwide including in countries bordering Zimbabwe and especially South Africa, Zimbabwe confirmed itsfirst confirmed case on 20. March 2020. Since then, there has been an increase in cases.

The Government of Zimbabwe announced on 17. March 2020 the early closure of schools on 24 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to the uncertainty around the development of the COVID-19 transmision, the planned reopening of schools, which were initially scheduled open on 05 May 2020, remains uncertain.

The education system in Zimbabwe was already stretched before the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of multiple crises, including the impact of Cyclone Idai in 2019, the economic crisis, climate-induced drought as well as food shortages. The COVID-19 epidemic has interrupted the teaching and learning for students. The epidemic poses great risksto the nutritional status of children from poor households, violence among children from fragile families and as well as mental well-being among both children and teachers. Without a conducive and disease free school environment, COVID-19 poses a risk to children’s health and wellbeing. Further, there is increased risk of permanent drop out among children with pre-existing vulnerabilities, especially children with disabilities. Given that the education sector was already beset with persistent disparities in educational opportunities between children of different gender, socio-economic status, disability status, orphan hood status, and demographic groups.
Without a well resourced response, these disparities are likely to widen.

The overall goal of Zimbabwe Education Sector preparedness and response strategy is to (1) minimize morbidity and mortality of COVID-19 among school communities, teachers and learners in Zimbabwe, (2) minimize/mitigate the disruption to the childrens’ education and learning and (3) ensure safe return to quality learning for teachers, learners and school communities. Activities in this strategy must be urgently and effectively implemented, starting with the highest risk areas to ensure adequate protection of school communities.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) and the Education Cluster look forward to working closely with stake-holders from across Government, donors, private sector, civil society, academia, professional associations, private-not-for profit sector, community-based organizations, religious leaders, traditional leaders, international organizations in the next few weeks and months

Key figures

• 853,032 learners (ECD to Grade 7, ages 3 to 12) targeted under the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) through Education in Emergency support across 33 districts with severe needs.

• 3.5 Million learners are currently affected and targeted under the COVID-19 pandemic. The cluster is targeting to reach them with various activities to address their needs.

• 63,325 people have been reached with HRP related activities with 243,670 people being reached with COVID-19 related activities as of May 2020.

• The cluster is appealing for US $41 Million through the Humanitarian Response Plan 2020 and US $11.5 Million through the newly launched COVID-19 Addendum.

• 20 operational partners within the cluster with activities planned, ongoing or completed.

Humanitarian needs

• The education system in Zimbabwe was already stretched before the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of multiple crises, including the impact of Cyclone Idai last year, the economic crisis coupled with hyperinflation and the ongoing drought. Before the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic, estimates by the Education Cluster were that of the more than 3.4 million children of school going age (3 to 12 years), at least 1.2 million (35 per cent), would need emergency and specialized education services in 2020. This includes more than 853,000 children in acute need, such as: children not enrolled in school; orphans and other vulnerable children (OCV), including children with disabilities and children living with HIV; and those in need of school feeding.

• The combined effect of the humanitarian crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have far-reaching implications for the demand and supply of education services. While Zimbabwe closed schools on March 24, 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to protect school populations, school closures have disrupted the education of more than 4.6 million children, with adverse impacts on the protection and wellbeing of children as well as their readiness for school, attendance and participation in learning. Prolonged school closures are likely to have a major and negative affect on children’s learning, physical, social and mental health and well-being threatening hard-won educational achievements for years to come. Prolonged school closures will likely exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and inequalities among children, especially girls, children with disabilities, those in rural areas, orphans and vulnerable children, as well as those from poor households and fragile families.

• The MoPSE is considering and announced plans to reopen schools in a phased approach, starting with final year classes (Grade 7, Form 4 and 6) to enable students to sit for national examinations.
While school closures have increased the risk of some learners permanently dropping out of school, opening schools in a context of increasing cases loads and without a well-resourced health response also represents major health risks for children, teachers and school communities.

To add to these challenges, schools, which traditionally fund their daily operations from user fees will likely be resource-constrained because of the inability of parents to pay school fees and the increased burden of operating schools.

• The cluster is targeting 3.5 million learners in early childhood education, primary level and secondary level through prioritization of activities.


  • The education system in Zimbabwe was already stretched before the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of multiple crises, including the impact of Cyclone Idai last year, the economic crisis coupled with hyperinflation and the ongoing drought. Before the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic, estimates by the Education Cluster were that of the more than 3.4 million children of school going age (3 to 12 years), at least 1.2 million (35 per cent), would need emergency and specialized education services in 2020.This includes more than 853,000 children in acute need, such as: children not enrolled in school; orphans and other vulnerable children (OCV), including children with disabilities and children living with HIV; and those in need of school feeding.
  • The combined effect of the humanitarian crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic is having far-reaching implications for the demand and supply of education services. Zimbabwe closed schools on 24 March 2020 in to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to protect school populations, with schools remaining closed to date. The school closures have disrupted the education of more than 4.6 million children, with adverse impacts on the protection and wellbeing of children as well as their readiness for school, attendance and participation in learning. Furthermore, prolonged school closures are likely to have a major and negative affect on children’s learning, physical, social and mental health and well-being—threatening hard-won educational achievements for years to come. Prolonged school closures will also likely exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and inequalities among children, especially girls, children with disabilities, those in rural areas, orphans and vulnerable children, and those from poor households and fragile families.
  • As the the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) is considering re-opening schools in a phased approach starting with final year classes (Grade 7, Form 4 and 6) to enable students to sit for national examinations, whereas school closures have increased the risk of some learners permanently dropping out of school, there are also concerns that re-opening schools in a context of increasing caseloads and without a well-resourced health response could present major health risks for children, teachers and school communities. The likelihood of schools being resource constrained is high given the inability of parents incapacitated by the lockdown to pay school fees, increasing the burden of operating schools.


  • The Cluster is targeting 3.5 million learners in early childhood education, primary level and secondary level through prioritization of activities. The numbers of people that have benefited from partner-implemented activities via the Humanitarian Response Planning 2020 and the COVID-19 response have continued to increase over the last two months, through the following most recent activities:
  • Education Cluster partners are supporting learners through radio programming. To date 116 radio lessons have been developed and airing started on 16 June 2020 and airing will be done in a phased approach, starting with grades 1, 2, 3 and 7. TV lessons will be broadcast later once the radio programme is underway.
  • Development of digital online e-learning courses and materials is underway and MoPSE, in collaboration with partners has identified work that can be uploaded onto the portal, which is being refined in a test environment. The go-live date is yet to be announced.
  • Distribution of story books currently underway in six districts. UNICEF is leading this exercise to enable students to read and learn during school closures. All storybooks can be accessed via the mobile site of “Internet of Good Things”.
  • Early Childhood Development (ECD) story books and the PSS workbook for children ‘My Story’ will be distributed to satellite schools covering the districts of Binga, Kariba, Mwenezi, Gokwe North, Insiza and Zvimba in the initial phase. A total of seven titles of ECD story books have been uploaded on ‘Internet of Good Things’ covering ECD grades.
  • A total of 20,000 boys and girls in Epworth and Chitungwiza, including children with disabilities, are expected to be reached with PPE, sanitizers, disinfectants, teaching and learning material, sanitary wear, buckets, soap and face towels.
  • In eight provinces across 29 districts, most vulnerable girls are supported to remain safe and protected during the lock down period.
  • Pre-positioning for opening of schools is ongoing through the purchasing of PPE kits for learners and teachers, with preparation of distributions for Provincial Education Directors (PEDs) and District Schools Inspectors (DSIs) and other critical personnel in the districts and provinces. Meanwhile, development of guidelines by MoPSE with support from partners is at an advanced stage and will be launched soon.


  • Inadequate human and financial resources: While partners have supported the development of the Education Cluster COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan, human and financial resource constraints to respond to the urgent needs of learners persist.
  • Reduced mobility and access: Both partners and Government staff are facing fiscal and technical constraints to enable staff to work remotely and respond to the needs of learners. Meanwhile, the lockdown has also reduced the mobility of staff, with implications for the implementation of response activities. While Government issued letters following the initial lockdown, some partners are facing renewed mobility challenges during the second phase of the lockdown. Time-critical solutions to focus on learners who cannot access digital or radio lessons, due to coverage or household considerations are minimal and need to be addressed further to enhance response.

When disasters strike they affect everyone including the most vulnerable. Children are always a vulnerable group in any emergency and the coronavirus pandemic has changed how millions around the globe, including Zimbabwe, are educated. Amid the public health emergency, schools in the nation had to shut down abruptly in an attempt to contain the spread on the COVID-19 virus. The situation in the country is worsened by the reality that most learners have no/limited access to internet connectivity and therefore cannot continue learning at home following the school shutdowns. Without access to education, children run the risk of failing to reach their full potential.

World Vision Zimbabwe is leveraging on its existing partnerships, programs, running grants and structures in the response to COVID 19. The main focus with regards to education includes mitigating the immediate impact of school closures, particularly for more vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, and to facilitate the continuity of education given the context and under the restrictive circumstances. The UK Aid funded Improving Girls Access through Transforming Education (IGATE) project came up with an initiative to ensure children have access to education during the national lockdown. The project, which has always supported learning camps during school holidays initiated the Holiday Virtual Learning program where children receive literacy and numeracy activities via the Whatsapp mobile platform through their parents. Unlike internet connectivity, statistics in Zimbabwe show that mobile penetration stands at about 86% nationwide.

WV provides access to data bundles for community volunteers and a daily literacy and numeracy challenge that can keep learners across many grades actively learning but does not require a teacher to lead. For the past two weeks this has been piloted with 4 schools per district to learn how it can work in very remote schools while also monitoring to assure the health and safety of learners and volunteers.

IGATE program director, Janelle Zwier-Marongedza, said they aim to encourage more learners to join this platform with the help of the parents and caregivers. This model which is being implemented in selected four schools through community learning champions in Chivi, Insiza, Mberengwa and Mangwe districts has had overwhelming response and is currently reaching more than 40 learners a day per volunteer.

 “We are happy to report the idea is taking off with volunteers dispatching to many caregivers and parents and supporting many small groups of learners for home-based study.  The intention is for this to snowball (grow organically and in a targeted way).” she said.

As a result, more WhatsApp groups are forming per districts where daily activities and exercises to assist children within their vicinity are posted. Through the existing structures, the project has managed to convince residents and willing teachers to also assist community champions to mobilise learners and to clarify the daily activities being tasked to the children.
Social Norms and Community Engagement Technical Manager for IGATE, America Ndlovu said working with community volunteers has been a great experience for her.

“I really appreciate the community volunteers that we have been working with, although not all days are great. Some days when the volunteers are busy in the field they will assist around 20 children each, but then on a good day they can reach out to more than 40 children per volunteer. My role is to support and encourage them,” she said.

America said they are following and adhering to the COVID-19 prevention health guidelines in order to minimize risks for children and our community learning champions on the ground helping us make this innovation a great success.

To date we have 30 volunteers and this is growing on daily basis. With one volunteer reaching 40 learners supporting multiple groups. We are hopeful!

Zimbabwean school heads have demanded placement of teachers as part of the country’s frontline staff against Covid-19.

In a statement Thursday, the heads further warned against any rushed schools opening by government without appropriate measures put in place to avoid the spread of the pandemic among learners.

Speaking under the umbrella National Association of School Heads (NASH), the school managers said if learning institutions were to open as per education calender next week, they could easily become epicentres of coronavirus in the country.

The heads went on to propose minimum conditions for schools to open with the safety of learners and teachers firmly placed as a priority.

NASH also wants teachers to be paid risk allowances by government.

If school are going to open any time soon, according to NASH, health experts and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines must strictly be followed.

“Social distancing among learners will be a major challenge especially during break times,” said the school heads.

“Consequently, schools may prove to be a fertile epicentre for the spread of COVID-19.

“Therefore, opening schools should be on phased basis starting with fewer learners that are manageable.

“Teachers, learners and ancillary staff to be tested nationally prior to the commencement of the lessons, a process that has a huge budget implication to see it through.

“The said stakeholders also need appropriate protective attire to prevent the spread and the ministry should ensure that all that is in place before the start of the lessons.”

The heads added, “Classrooms, hostels, offices should be subjected to comprehensive disinfection and disinfectants for daily use by stakeholders availed in institutions prior to the commencement of lessons.

“Teachers and ancillary staff be classified under frontline workers because they are high risk of being infected.

“Therefore, should be entitled to risk allowance like any other frontline workers.”

Turning to boarding schools, the heads warned opening for all learners could be disastrous.

“Maybe if we decided to settle for the worst, only examination class should be allowed to resume lessons provided all cited conditions are unflinching, adhere to the letter,” said the school heads.

“Albeit deferring the opening of all learning institutions is the most suitable prevention for the spread of the pandemic.

“Boarding school learners and teachers should be screened and quarantined for 14-days before allowing them to congregate as a class.”

NASH said all learners have been severely affected in that either they were not writing end of year examinations as per their academic year.

Syllabus completion will be a huge challenge assuming that schools remain closed with those writing end of year examinations likely not to graduate.

The Government of Zimbabwe announced that schools would reopen, already for examinations in late June and move forward in steps in the following weeks to re-open schools despite risks of an intensification of COVID-19 infections. Education trade unions challenged the re-openings as unsafe and premature and called for social dialogue in order to ensure safe re-opening. However, failing to get cooperation from the Government, the two largest education unions, EI member organisations ZIMTA and PTUZ, joined by several smaller unions, took the government to court. The court decided the case in favour of the unions. The Government says that it will comply with the decision and meet the high court deadline.

Zimbabwe education unions opposed school reopening as proposed by the Government. Their principal arguments were that the reopening of schools was dangerous because:
  • The teacher-pupil ratio was too high to make social distancing possible with existing school facilities and arrangements. The official figure for the ratio is 1 to 40, however the unions argue that the real ratio is often 1 to 70 or even 1 to 100. This was already a serous education issue well before the pandemic made it a major health risk.
  • Adequate and safe transport for students and teachers was not available, which added additional distancing and sanitation dangers before and after school hours.
  • There was a lack of logistical preparedness. School facilities required fumigation and other sanitation measures on a massive scale. Contributing to that danger was the fact that many schools, colleges and universities had been used as quarantine centres. Inadequate supplies of hand sanitisers and face masks and insufficient personnel made schools dangerous as well. Many schools, particularly those in rural areas, were without clean running water or regular supplies of it.
Trade unions argued that many parents, students, and teachers were anxious and fearful over re-opening under those conditions as schools could become hotspots and make infection rates shoot up. In neighbouring South Africa, some schools that have been opened have had to be closed again as infections have surged.
The decision of the High Court of Zimbabwe, announced 19 June, was that before reopening, the Government must provide personal protective equipment for teachers and learners, clean and sanitise all facilities and follow safety practices as prescribed by the World Health Organisation, as well as providing for testing and adequate sanitation facilities.
The Government responded that it will meet all of the conditions of the High Court as well as its deadlines and promised to allocate significant resources for that purpose.

The right to education in Zimbabwe is under serious threat, a local NGO warned in a statement Wednesday.

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), a trade union for rural school teachers, said insufficient government funding, lack of teaching materials, inadequate infrastructure, corruption, disorganized curricula, climate change, political interference and poor teacher salaries threatened access to education in the country.

On average, a Zimbabwean teacher earns 1,200 Zimbabwean dollars ($70) monthly.

ARTUZ underlined that under the current circumstances, parents could play a vital role in improving the students’ access to their right to education, according to the Zimbabwe-based Pindula news website.

“Zimbabwe has a shortage of over 2,000 schools. Our learners cannot be accommodated in conventional schools. Individuals are plugging this gap, but they don’t have enough resources to construct proper private schools,” Obert Masaraure, president of ARTUZ, told Anadolu Agency earlier last month.

However, the Zimbabwean government has claimed to have invested in over 5,750 primary schools and 2,300 secondary schools since its independence in 1980, boasting employment of more than 70,000 primary school teachers, 90% of whom have academic education.

According to Masaraure, teachers in the country are “disillusioned by the conditions of service in government-run schools, they are resorting to coming up with their own learning centers for survival.”

Zimbabwean legislators on Monday called for the postponement of June and November 2020 public examinations following disruptions to the school calendar by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sitting during the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education, the legislators said learners are not prepared to sit for the examinations due to the short time they have had of learning this year.

While some have continued classes through e-learning, a vast majority of the students in rural areas had been disadvantaged due to lack of access to the internet.

Those with access to internet were also facing difficulties due to the high cost of data.

Committee chairperson Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga said the government must consider the plight of the disadvantaged rural student.

Legislator Johnson Madhuku said the performance of disadvantaged students will certainly be affected if the government sticks to its original 2020 examination timetable.

Responding to queries from the legislators, Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) director Lazarus Nembaware said the organization will wait for guidance from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

Nembaware said they were now waiting for dates from the government after the announcement by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday that learning of examination classes can now resume.

He said it was too early to talk about shifting the November examinations, noting that what the examination body will do in the meantime is to prepare the examination papers so that they are ready when government gives the green light.

“As far as we are concerned we will still put into motion the wheels of preparing for the November examination and then wait for direction from the ministry. We are amenable to the issues,” he said.

The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education is on Wednesday expected to address parliament on when schools will re-open and the modalities of operation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mnangagwa on Saturday extended indefinitely the lockdown period which started on March 30, adding that reviews will be conducted after every two weeks to assess the situation.

Zimbabwe currently has 46 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 18 recoveries and four deaths.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa led the nation in prayer Monday, seeking divine intervention against the novel coronavirus, which has claimed thousands of lives and infected millions of people globally.

“Forgive those who have worshipped idols and false gods. Forgive us for all the immorality and uncleanliness. Forgive us for every act of injustice or corruption that has made the poor to suffer or the innocent to die,” Mnangagwa said during his prayer, which was broadcast live on state-run ZBC TV and other social media platforms.

The prayer meeting, held at the State House in the capital Harare, involved the recitation of verses from the Bible that speak of repentance and forgiveness. Last week, the president urged Zimbabweans to come together, pray, fast and continue to observe precautions necessary to prevent the virus from spreading.

The country has so far reported 383 COVID-19 cases and four deaths while 54 people have recovered.

Ahead of the prayer meeting, Zimbabweans expressed their dissatisfaction with Mnangagwa’s administration over rampant corruption, looting and alleged human rights abuses including abductions and torture.

Security in the capital was tightened ahead of the prayer meeting with soldiers and police turning away motorists and commuters at roadblocks and telling them to go back home to fast and pray.

Various heads of Christian churches and the Muslim, Hindu and Greek and Jewish communities attended the prayer meeting.

Authorities in Zimbabwe have started publicly naming people who have escaped from quarantine centres and urging the public to report them to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Zimbabwe has seen a rise in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in recent days, with most recorded at quarantine centres.

More than 3,700 people are being kept in the quarantine centres after entering the country, mostly from neighbouring South Africa and Botswana, but dozens are fleeing the confinement complaining of filthy, unhygienic conditions and charging infections are spread at the quarantine areas.

Zimbabwe’s defence minister has called the coronavirus pandemic a “punishment” of the US and Europe for imposing sanctions against members of the ruling regime over human rights abuses.

Coronavirus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed almost 6,000 since it was first detected in China last December.

“Coronavirus is the work of god punishing countries who imposed sanctions on us,” said Zimbabwe’s defence minister Oppah Muchinguri on Saturday, speaking at a rally in the northern town of Chinhoyi.

“They are now staying indoors. Their economies are screaming just like they did to our economy.”

The United States and the European Union first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe during the despotic rule of the country’s late ex-president Robert Mugabe, ousted by the military in November 2017.

The measures were aimed at high-ranking officials and government institutions, including travel bans on Mugabe and his inner circle.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been battling to re-engage with the West since he took office in 2017.

But the US extended sanctions this month to two security officials accused of orchestrating a violent crackdown on protests over a delay in election results in 2018, killing six.

Muchinguri said the novel virus would teach US President Donald Trump that “he is not God”.

“They must feel the effects of coronavirus and understand our pain,” she said.

Trump declared a national state of emergency on Saturday. At least 2,700 people have tested positive in the US and more than 50 have died.

Sub-Saharan Africa has so far escaped the worst of the pandemic, with fewer than 100 cases confirmed in more than 20 countries.

Zimbabwe has not yet detected any cases.

Neighbouring South Africa announced 13 new cases on Sunday, bringing the country’s tally up to 51.

On Twitter, many Zimbabweans said they were appalled by Muchinguri’s words.

“To say I’m gobsmacked is an understatement,” tweeted law professor Alex Magaisa. “How does a senior minister utter such rubbish?”

Others criticised the government for not taking the pandemic seriously enough.

“Namibian President… has cancelled Independence Celebrations,” tweeted journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.

“Yet in Zimbabwe the regime is pushing ahead with Independence celebrations… whilst hospitals are dilapidated!”

To date only government officials and staff have been banned from foreign travel in Zimbabwe.

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The government is working closely with development partners, Civil Society Organisation’s (CSO), and the private sector to strengthen preparedness and respond to the pandemic.

Approximately 300 health workers from across Zimbabwe’s Provinces, cities, hospitals and districts gathered in Kadoma last week for a case management training on COVID-19, Cholera, Typhoid and other infectious diseases.

The training, which is part of the UKAID assisted Project on “Strengthening preparedness and response to cholera and other infectious disease outbreaks in Zimbabwe” is aimed at building the capacity of key frontline health workers by providing updated training on COVID-19, cholera, and typhoid, and other infectious diseases.

This comes as Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in ramping up efforts to prevent and mitigate against the spread of the COVID-19 virus which has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and is affecting millions of people around the world through infection (currently more than 150,000 cases and more than 6500 deaths world-wide as of 16 March) as well as loss of livelihoods and travel bans in many countries.

“We are ready to tackle the virus” said Dr John Mangwiro, the Deputy Minister of Health & Child Care addressing the participants. “As of now, [17 March 2020], there is no confirmed COVID-19 case in Zimbabwe, but we must be vigilant,” he said.

The government is working closely with development partners, Civil Society Organisations (CSO), and the private sector to strengthen preparedness and respond to the pandemic when it arrives in Zimbabwe. The Minister applauded UNICEF for its wholistic efforts and reiterated that “while tackling COVID-19, forgetting cholera and typhoid will be a disaster.”

UNICEF’s Chief of Health, Dr Paul Ngwakum said that UNICEF is streamlining COVID-19 prevention in all its ongoing routine interventions to improve efficiency. “Integrating COVID-19 case management in planned UKAID funded training for cholera and typhoid prevention is an efficient way to prepare for and tackle the disease, particularly in a situation of limited resources like we are in Zimbabwe.”

“We don’t know the impact COVID-19 will have in Zimbabwe with many vulnerable populations, a struggling health care system and many people unable to avoid high-density living conditions. But Zimbabwe is a resilient country and we are doing all we can to support the government and partners to prepare,” he said.

The training was also attended by representatives from WHO, UNICEF and MSF. In addition to capacity building on cholera and typhoid management, the other major deliverables of the training were a finalized COVID-19 training package for the Healthcare system at all levels, Standard Operation Procedures and a finalised National Response Plan for COVID-19 for a more coordinated and integrated response. The training also looked at improving risk communication, isolation facilities, case management, and partnerships. Trainings are now being cascaded at lower levels of the health system by these 300 newly formed master trainers.

COVID-19 is a respiratory tract infection caused by a newly emergent coronavirus that had not been previously identified in humans. It is highly contagious and spreads through droplets (coughing, sneezing) and close personal unprotected contact with an infected person (touching, shaking hands etc).

Signs and symptoms are typically respiratory related symptoms and include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and other flu-like symptoms. For more information about COVID-19 visit https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus and for daily updates from the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Case visit http://www.mohcc.gov.zw

The Government of Zimbabwe has implemented enhanced screening and quarantine measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.  The government of Zimbabwe does not have a website where it is providing additional information on new measures currently, but situational updates are provided via twitter by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

Zimbabwe has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders.

 The Government of Zimbabwe instituted screening checks including thermal scans and review of travel history within the previous 14 days.  All travelers and visitors coming from countries with local transmission of COVID 19 cases will be referred for additional screening at ports of entry into Zimbabwe. Travelers with signs and symptoms suggestive of COVID 19 will be referred immediately to designated isolation centers for further clinical examination and assistance.

The Government of Zimbabwe announced two hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo, its two largest cities, will handle all cases of travelers with suspected COVID-19.  The Zimbabwe Government has not released any guidance on how it plans to handle cases in Victoria Falls, an international travel hub.

On 23 March, 2020 Zimbabwe recorded its first coronavirus (COVID-19) casualty, national broadcaster Zororo Makamba. The renowned and highly influential 30-year-old journalist contracted the virus during a visit to New York, and his subsequent passing created widespread panic resulting in a quick call-to-action.

Shortly after Makamba’s death and as the number of infections increased, on the 30 March, the president of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, declared a 21-day national lockdown. Consequently, the lockdown was extended by 14 days and on 17 May, the president declared an indefinite shutdown, with restrictions that will be reviewed fortnightly.

The president declared an indefinite shutdown, with restrictions that will be reviewed fortnightly.

As part of the continuous effort to prepare the health sector for the fight against COVID-19, on 12 May a team of 12 Chinese doctors arrived in Zimbabwe from Hunan Province in south-central China to help in the fight against the coronavirus. The medical team, with “frontline” experience in curbing the spread of the virus, brought testing kits and protective clothing and spent a fortnight in Zimbabwe. Part of the team’s mandate was visited to medical and isolation centres involved in the national COVID-19 response initiatives.

The Chinese government has pledged to upgrade Zimbabwe’s main isolation center for suspected COVID-19 patients in the capital Harare.

HARARE, March 6 (Xinhua) — The Chinese government on Thursday pledged to upgrade Zimbabwe’s main isolation center for suspected patients of COVID-19 in the capital Harare.

Also, the Zimbabwean government announced it was stepping up its preparedness after neighboring South Africa on Thursday confirmed its first case of the virus, the first such case in southern Africa.

Addressing the media after touring Wilkins Hospital in Harare which has been designated to deal with the virus, Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun said China will support Zimbabwe and other African countries to deal with coronavirus which has now been reported in seven African countries.

The photo shows nurses and staff of Wilkins Hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe, on March 5, 2020. (Xinhua/Shaun Jusa)

“So far there is no confirmed case of coronavirus in Zimbabwe and it’s not because we are lucky. It is the outcome of the cooperation between China and Zimbabwe. We will support the Zimbabwe government to adopt necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.”

“This afternoon I toured Wilkins Hospital and I now have a rough idea about the facility. China would like to assist particularly African countries in fighting against the coronavirus,” Guo said.

Guo said the Chinese government will provide fund and equipment to upgrade Wilkins Hospital so that it could provide better conditions for suspected coronavirus patients.

Zimbabwean Health Minister Obadiah Moyo thanked China for the kind gesture, saying it will not only boost the country’s capacity to deal with the virus but ensure a clean and conducive environment for medical staff and patients that meets World Health Organization requirements.

Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun (Front) and minister counselor of Chinese embassy Zhao Baogang tour the Wilkins Hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 5, 2020. (Xinhua/Shaun Jusa)

The facility has so far handled two suspected cases of the virus since it was set up in January.

Moyo said following the detection of the virus in South Africa, Zimbabwe needed to ramp up its preparedness and continue to strengthen its response mechanisms, including making all its borders and points of entry full proof.

“It is very frightening that it (COVID-19) is around the corner. We have to be prepared,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) on Thursday donated coronavirus protective equipment to Wilkins Hospital worth about 100,000 British Pounds (about 129,390 U.S. dollars).■

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China is publicly handing out money and equipment to help fight the spread of coronavirus in Zimbabwe. But Beijing’s generosity has made some very wary.

Until now most in Zimbabwe have accepted that China’s aid and investment strategy in the country is usually tied to infrastructure development.

The partnership announced this week between the China Gezhouba Group and a Zimbabwean company to build a new coal-fired power station worth three billion US dollars fits much better into the business mould Zimbabweans and Zimbabwe business watchers have come to expect.

Critics call the new trend, replicated in several African countries, of shipping medical supplies and offering financial support for primary health care China’s “coronavirus diplomacy”.

“China has been extremely active in pushing out support to a host of countries needing assistance to tackle Covid-19,” Piers Pigou, southern Africa consultant with the International Crisis Group, tells RFI.

“It may well be expending more energy on profiling these contributions in the face of bad press relating to its responsibilities around managing and communicating around the initial stages of the pandemic.”

The suspicious list

Here are some of what’s been supplied to Zimbabwe so far by the Chinese embassy and the Chinese private sector:

  • An upgrade worth US$500,000 to Harare’s main Covid-19 centre, the Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital.
  • A donation of 50,000 masks, one thousand goggles and 510 protective suits by two Chinese firms to First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s charity
  • Equipment including 166,000 face masks, 7,600 protective suits, 20,000 test kits, 12,000 pairs of gloves and five ventilators from the Chinese embassy
  • Two donations from China’s richest man, Jack Ma, including tens of thousands of test kits, protective suits, face masks and shields
  • A US$3million donation from the China International Development Cooperation Agency to UNICEF Zimbabwe. China is also supporting the United Nations Population Fund in refurbishing neonatal clinics in southern and eastern Zimbabwe.

Shielded from criticism

Suspicion among Zimbabweans is rife. It was strongest among government critics to begin with.

Indeed, Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo in early April called on Zimbabweans not to blame one group of people for the origin of the coronavirus in a clear attempt to shield China from criticism.

The late Robert Mugabe used to call China Zimbabwe’s “all-weather friend”, a gratitude sparked no doubt in part by China’s willingness to turn a blind eye to the country’s rights abuses.

But local thought leaders have resisted, using hashtags like #ChineseColony. Videos posted online showing the mistreatment of African migrant workers and traders, mostly Nigerians, in the city of Guangzhou last week haven’t helped.

Attempts by Chinese diplomats in Harare to downplay the incidents only stirred anger.

“You think that Zimbabweans are so foolish that they would buy into your pathetic explanations when the whole world knows what is going on?” journalist Hopewell Chinono said in a tweeted remark to top embassy official, Zhao Baogang.

Chinono, who has more than 134,000 followers accused some Chinese firms operating in Zimbabwe of having pillaged the country and not paying taxes.

“If companies like Huawei were paying taxes, Zimbabwe would not need donations,” he said, referring to the opaque 2014 investment agreement under which the Chinese tech giant has been exempted from paying tax.

Snakes and bats

The remarks by Chinono reflect growing anti-Chinese sentiment in Zimbabwe, at least on social media. This may gain further traction, says Pigou.

“China’s support is intended for all Zimbabweans, but there is a strong sense that beneficiation remains mediated by state and Zanu-PF (the ruling party) interests,” he said.

Lately, even a member of Zanu-PF has let slip some frustration. In a tweet last week, Deputy Information minister Energy Mutodi said the consumption of “dogs, cats, snakes, bats, monkeys” in China and other Asian countries had “left us all at risk of contracting the Covid-19”.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has extended a nationwide lockdown meant to control the spread of coronavirus, though the restrictions will be reviewed every two weeks.

In a live broadcast on Saturday, Mnangagwa said the measure would remain in place “for an indefinite period”, adding that “the country needs to ease out of the lockdown in a strategic and gradual manner”.

He said informal street markets, where millions of Zimbabweans make a living, would remain shut while the government consulted health specialists on how to reopen them safely.

But businesses such as manufacturers, supermarkets and banks, which have been allowed to continue operating, will see their operating hours extended from a maximum of six hours to more than eight hours between 8am (06:00 GMT) and 4:30pm (14:30 GMT).

Mnangagwa said the hundreds of Zimbabwean migrants returning home every week, mainly from South Africa and Botswana, will have to undergo a 21-day quarantine in school and college buildings set aside for the purpose.

The president said only students writing final examinations this year would be allowed to resume classes, but did not say when. The government is still working on plans to reopen schools in phases.

The drastic restrictions have so far borne fruit as coronavirus transmission has not been widespread and numbers remain lower than the initial projections, Mnangagwa said.

Zimbabwe imposed its lockdown on March 30 and has recorded 44 confirmed coronavirus cases and four related deaths.

Mnangagwa said the World Health Organization had classified coronavirus transmission in Zimbabwe as “sporadic”, with a low number of cases and no discernible clusters.

“This may suggest that, despite the small numbers tested, our country might have a reduced COVID-19 trajectory,” he said.

Doctors and experts have warned that Zimbabwe’s poorly equipped health service could not cope with a severe coronavirus outbreak.

Zimbabwean troops and police on Tuesday tightened the coronavirus lockdown in the capital Harare, blocking many cars and buses from entering the central business district as cases of infections increased.

But the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government was trying to suppress protests over a worsening economy and to stop MDC supporters from gathering at the courts where the lawyer for its leader was due to appear after being arrested on Monday.
Coronavirus infections have more than tripled to 203 in the last few days. Mnangagwa had eased the lockdown since it was first imposed at the end of March.

On Tuesday, however, police and soldiers turned away many commuters and cars, including those with work letters, at check points leading into town except critical staff like health workers as well as state employees, witnesses said.

“Please note that it is not everyone who should be in the CBD (central business district),” the police said in a statement.

A Reuters witness saw a group of soldiers and police in downtown Harare ordering people to leave the city center and shops to close.
By lunchtime businesses in downtown had shut, but in another part of town, where government offices are located, some businesses, including supermarkets and banks, were open.

The state-owned Herald newspaper, which reflects government thinking, published pictures on its website of people walking back home on foot.

There were no similar reports from other cities.

The MDC has accused the government of using curbs on movements to persecute its members and sees a political motive behind Monday intensifications of the lockdown.

“So if this is about Covid-19 why is it only happening in Harare? This appears to be more about politics than medicine or health,” MDC senator David Coltart wrote on Twitter.

At least 131 people have died from malaria in Zimbabwe in a new outbreak, adding pressure to a country already struggling to deal with Covid-19.

The fatalities occurred in 201 outbreaks recorded across the country, according to the Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s lockdown has been extended by two weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“The cumulative figures for malaria are 135,585 [cases] and 131 deaths. A total of 201 malaria outbreaks have been reported throughout the country, mostly from malarious provinces such as Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland East,” reads a report seen by the Guardian.

Malaria transmission is seasonal and unstable, causing sickness and death across all age groups. In Zimbabwe, epidemics occasionally occur during the warm and wet season, particularly in February, March and April.

Health experts predict the figures will continue to rise across the country, although the true figures may well be masked by families being unable to access clinics or failing to report cases.

A swarm of flying mosquitoes
Zimbabwe had seen a decline in malaria, but its success began to reverse within the past few years. Malaria accounts for between 30% and 50% of outpatient appointments in malaria-prone areas, according to the Ministry of Health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned Zimbabwe that there is a risk of paying less attention to diseases such as malaria while fighting Covid-19.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, the malaria community must remain committed to supporting the prevention of malaria infection, illness and death through preventive and case management services, while maintaining a safe environment for patients, clients and staff. Deaths due to malaria and its comorbidities (anaemia, undernutrition, etc) must continue to be prevented,” said a recent WHO report.

Malaria, along with Aids and TB, is one of the biggest killers in Zimbabwe. However, unlike Covid-19, the disease is treatable at the local level using rapid diagnostic tests.

The recent outbreak comes as the country’s health system faces a serious shortage of drugs amid worsening economic conditions.

The health system is at risk of crashing in case of a widespread Covid-19 outbreak. The virus has to date infected 25 people, killing three.

Zimbabwe’s health sector has been crippled since last year after months of strikes over poor working conditions, with doctors claiming that patients were dying due to lack of medical supplies. Two weeks ago, the government was taken to court over its failure to provide doctors working on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic with masks.

Zimbabwe’s once vibrant health system has collapsed over the past two decades, largely due to an economic crisis. This has raised doubts over the country’s ability to cope with the coronavirus and a possible malaria outbreak.

The country entered a second phase of the national lockdown on Monday with a 14-day extension. Authorities say they want to scale up testing which has so far remained low due to inadequate testing kits.

A statement on Tuesday by the chief secretary for President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the removal of Obediah Moyo. Moyo last month was charged with criminal abuse of duty as a public officer.

Zimbabwe Covid-19, coronavirus Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Coronavirus covid-19, covid-19 zimbabwe, indian express news

The scandal comes as health professionals including nurses and doctors in Zimbabwe demand more pay and adequate protective gear in a country that has long faced economic collapse.

Zimbabwe’s health minister has been fired for inappropriate conduct after he was accused of illegally awarding a multi-million-dollar contract for COVID-19 medical supplies to a shadowy company that sold the government USD 28 face masks and other materials at inflated prices.

A statement on Tuesday by the chief secretary for President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the removal of Obediah Moyo. Moyo last month was charged with criminal abuse of duty as a public officer. Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption agency had arrested him following public uproar, and the government cancelled the contracts.

One of Mnangagwa’s sons was forced to issue a statement denying a link to the company after photos emerged of its Zimbabwean representative with the president and his wife and sons at several events. The representative, Delish Nguwaya, and some top officials of the national drugs procurement agency also face criminal charges related to the scandal.

Nguwaya is accused of lying in saying the company was a drugs manufacturing company based in Switzerland, “whereas it was merely a consulting company with no experience in the manufacture of drug and medical products”, according to the charge sheet.

Moyo, a former hospital administrator, faces a fine or up to 15 years in prison if convicted. According to the charge sheet, he “exerted pressure” on his subordinates to award the contracts worth USD 60 million last year and this year.

The scandal comes as health professionals including nurses and doctors in Zimbabwe demand more pay and adequate protective gear in a country that has long faced economic collapse. Zimbabwe has 734 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Government officials announced on Wednesday, May 27, that the number of confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Zimbabwe had more than doubled in 24 hours, with the identification of 76 new cases taking the total to 132. All but one of the new cases in Beitbridge, Masvingo and Harare have been attributed to people returning to the country from South Africa and Botswana, with domestic transmission of the disease remaining limited. However, there have been increasing concerns in recent weeks over the level of screening for Zimbabwean citizens crossing back into the country. Although the country’s borders remain closed to foreign nationals, more than 4000 people are believed to have returned to Zimbabwe over the last month, hundreds of whom are reported to have fled quarantine facilities where they are expected to remain for 21 days after entering the country.

Zimbabwe has been under a Level 2 COVID-19 lockdown since March 30, under which citizens are expected to stay at home, except to seek medical assistance, buy food, or receive other essential services. However, the government has begun to ease some measures since May 16, with business opening hours being extended to 08:00 to 16:30 (local time).

Nevertheless, wearing a face mask in public spaces remains mandatory. All public transportation services, except Zupco, also remain suspended with exemptions for employees in essential services. Security personnel have been deployed across the country to ensure the public comply with the lockdown measures. The manufacturing, mining, public, and health sectors are exempt from the aforementioned measures.

As of Thursday, May 28, there have been 132 confirmed COVID-19 cases and four associated fatalities in Zimbabwe. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.

The Ministry would like to report that today the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory tested 65 samples. Two of these tested positive for COVID-19. More details on these cases to be given later.

Among the 65 samples tested today, was the repeat test for the sample from the individual whom we reported previously as having received an inconclusive. result. Today, he tested Negative for COVID-19.

Therefore, to date, Zimbabwe has 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including one death.

The Ministry would also like to advise the nation that the third case we reported yesterday was today admitted for treatment under isolation at Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital. He remains in a stable condition and is assisting our teams in intensified surveillance through contact tracing

Obadiah Moyo , Zimbabwe Minister of Health

The Ministry continues to be on HIGH alert to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The table below summarises the number of COVID-19 tests conducted by the National Microbiology Reference Laborato to date and the results.

Tests conducted165
COVID-19 Positive5
COVID-19 Ne ative159
Inconclusive result

Today, the third meeting of the ad hoc Inter-ministerial Taskforce on COVID-19 was held.

According to WHO, as of the 25th March 2020, more than 410 000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 18 000 deaths have been reported globally. The European region has reported the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths of more than 220 000 and 1 1 000 respectively.

The Ministry would like to remind everyone to remain vigilant in the prevention of COVID-19 and practice good personal hygiene including.

  1. Washing hands with soap and water frequently or use of an alcohol-based hand-rub,
  2. Covering your nose and mouth with tissue paper or flexed elbow when coughing and sneezing
  3. Avoiding close contact with people who are sick, coughing or sneezing. Additionally, all non-essential travel is strongly discouraged.

If you suspect COVID-19 disease, or wish to obtain more information on this disease, you are advised to call the following Ministry of Health and Child Care TOLL FREE HOT LINE numbers for assistance: 2019.

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Zimbabwe has pleaded with international institutions to help it clear billions of dollars in debt arrears so the country can avoid economic collapse and unlock funds to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Without urgent aid to clear arrears owed to official lenders, the southern African nation faced “domestic collapse”, Mthuli Ncube, finance minister, told the IMF, African Development Bank and other institutions in a letter seen by the Financial Times. The IMF and other bodies have pledged billions of dollars in emergency loans to help African nations battle the pandemic and shore up locked-down economies. But Zimbabwe – along with Sudan and Eritrea – is excluded from such funds because of its longstanding arrears. The country is about $2bn behind on payments to official lenders including the World Bank and AfDB, although it has paid off the IMF. In a sign of its desperation to access funds, the government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa took responsibility in the letter for “recent policy missteps”, which have included state payouts to a company led by a close ally of the president. Last year, the payouts to Sakunda, a fuel importer headed by Kudakwashe Tagwirei, were financed with money-printing that triggered a currency collapse and a warning from the IMF.

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