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As of 8 July 2020, approximately 80 percent of COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe were reported as imported and coming from within Quarantine Centres (QCs), which hold Zimbabweans returning to the country.
As of the week of 20 July this trend has reversed with local transmission now exceeding imported cases. This is thought to be largely attributable to returnees illegally crossing the border to evade quarantine due to the fear and misinformation surrounding the centres. This is leading to many re-entering communities without being tested and quarantined. In early July, Action contre la Faim (ACF) and partners launched an assessment of some of the key QCs in collaboration with MoPSLSW and MoHCC to understand the cause of the spread of infection within Quarantine Centres and to identify key gaps to be urgently addressed in an attempt to contain the spread.
On March 29, 2020, Zimbabwe implemented a country-wide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic with limitations on movement and border closures. Nationals and residents are allowed to re-enter but must be tested upon entry and sent to a state-allocated quarantine centre closest to their residence for 7-21 days in accordance with Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020. Prior to COVID-19, many Zimbabweans travelled to neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Botswana in search of economic opportunities or to rejoin family members. While some Zimbabweans are now returning voluntarily, others have been forced to do so due to deportation or loss of employment as a result of lockdown measures associated with the pandemic. Private quarantine is on offer for those who can afford it and represents a safer option. However, for the majority of returnees this is not a viable option. Up to July, most state-run Quarantine Centres were housed in primary and secondary schools., Although the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) has delayed the re-opening of schools to full-time students, it is clear that alternative structures will be required in coming months and provinces are investigating where else returnees can be accommodated. The lack of fit-for-purpose structures means some provinces have limited (in some cases just one) facilities and those that exist are ill- equipped to ensure the safety of returnees. Across Quarantine Centres, significant WASH and Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) and protection gaps are observed requiring an urgent and coordinated multi-sectoral intervention.
For millions of Zimbabweans, the restrictive measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus have exacerbated the already hard-felt effects of recent shocks such as Cyclone Idai, consecutive droughts leading to a widespread food security crisis as well as an ongoing socio-economic crisis. With 80 percent of Zimbabweans working in the informal sector, the extended lockdown has hit urban livelihoods particularly hard. The pandemic has disproportionally affected vulnerable households who had already exhausted their coping mechanisms as a result of other shocks.
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