By Information Minister Monica Mutsvnangwa
1.0 UPDATE ON ZIMBABWE’S RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Cabinet considered an update on the response to the COVID-19 Outbreak, which was presented by the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, innovation, Science and Technology Development, as Acting Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on the COVID-19.
Cabinet advises that, as at 26 April, 2021, Zimbabwe’s cumulative COVID-19 cases stood at 38 102, with 35 149 recoveries and 1 560 deaths. The recovery rate stands at 92.2%. Active cases are 1393.
Law enforcement agents are intensifying efforts to curb the re-emergence of illegal transport operators. Seventeen thousand seven hundred and twenty seven (17 727) arrests were made countrywide during the week under review for flouting the various lockdown regulations, bringing the total arrested so far to 607 386.
Cabinet was informed that investigations in Pumula, Bulawayo revealed that only two schools were affected, and the rest were operating normally. Government reiterates that it will strictly apply the no-work no-pay labour principle to all cases of teacher absenteeism, and the responsible Ministry has compiled and submitted a list of teachers that did not conduct lessons in March to the Public Service Commission. The April list is being compiled. Meanwhile, Learner attendance across the country remained the same as recorded last week.
As part of efforts to prevent a third wave of the COVID-19 Outbreak, engagement of stakeholders and partners is being intensified, with a view to pooling both human and financial resources for more effective responses. New strategies including focused interventions and intensified community engagements have been adopted. In light of infections experienced in schools, sub-national communication structures have intensified campaigns in COVID-19 hotspots and in cases where community infections are noted.
2.0 PROGRESS REPORT ON THE PROCUREMENT AND ROLL-OUT OF COVID-19 VACCINES
Cabinet received an update on the procurement and roll out of COVID-19 Vaccines, which was presented by the Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Honourable C.G.D.N. Chiwenga.
As of 26 April, 2021, a total of 353 834 people had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 57 776 their second across the country. Cabinet wishes to assure citizens that they can receive their vaccination jabs anywhere in the country. This applies to the second vaccination dose as well, that is, people may be vaccinated at a location different from where they took their first jab if they so wish.
Regarding resources, it is advised that the Global Fund allocated US$75 million to complement Government efforts in the fight against COVID-19. The allocation is for three years, from 2021 to 2023. It should, however, be noted that Government continues to provide resources from its own coffers for the COVID-19 response programme, with ZW$11 billion having been released since the onset of the Outbreak.
On a related matter, Government efforts in refurbishing and upgrading health facilities are beginning to yield the desired results. Government is pleased to announce that Ekusileni Medical Centre has been fully refurbished and will soon be officially opened. Thorngrove Hospital was refurbished and upgraded to a 28-bed fully equipped COVID-19 isolation centre and is admitting COVID-19 patients. The first-ever free orthopaedic paediatric hospital and COVID-19 Isolation Centre based at United Bulawayo Hospital is also set to be soon officially opened. The hospital will attend to children with various orthopaedic conditions, including those with congenital deformities from all over the country.
In a development set to revolutionise COVID-19 management, Cabinet adopted a proposal to set up a Virtual Hospital for the Management of COVID-19 patients. This comes from the realisation that most COVID-19 patients recover without symptoms or after experiencing mild ones, which do not require hospitalisation. Government will establish a provisional figure of Ten Thousand (10 000) to twenty thousand (20 000) home based beds. A network of health staff will carry out protocol based monitoring and management of the cases. The equipment support for this programme is as follows:
1. Rechargeable oxygen concentrators
2. Finger pulse or saturation monitors
3. Non-contact thermometers
4. Blood glucose testing machines
5. Blood pressure machines
The equipment will be deployed to the admitted patients and returned when the patient gets discharged. The establishment of the Virtual Hospital will therefore alleviate the pressure on hospitals. The public will be kept abreast of developments in this regard.
3.0 REPORT ON THE 2021 SECOND ROUND CROP AND LIVESTOCK ASSESSMENT
The Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement presented the 2021 Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report, which was adopted by Cabinet.
Government is pleased to report that Zimbabwe is set for a bumper harvest, following the above-normal rains received across the country during the 2020/2021 summer season. This is notwithstanding the fact that the season terminated prematurely for almost all of the country’s districts, and that some southern and central parts experienced wet spells in December and January. This caused nutrient leaching in most crops. Highlights of the crop output projections are as follows:
• Maize production is estimated at 2 717 171 metric tonnes, which is 199% higher than the 907 628 metric tonnes produced in the 2019/2020 season.
• Traditional grains production is projected at 347 968 metric tonnes, which is 128% more than the 152 515 metric tonne output of the previous season.
• The total cereal production projection is 3 075 538 metric tonnes, against a national cereal requirement of 1 797 435 metric tonnes for human consumption and 450 000 metric tonnes for livestock.
• Cotton production is estimated at 195 991 metric tonnes in the 2020/2021 season, which is a 94% increase from the 101 000 metric tonnes in the 2019/2020 season.
• Tobacco production is estimated to increase by 8% to 200 245 metric tonnes from 184 042 metric tonnes in the 2019/2020 season.
• Soyabean production is expected to increase by 51% to 71 290 metric tonnes from 47 088 metric tonnes last year.
• Sweet potato production is estimated to increase by 269%, sugar beans by 142% and groundnuts by 139%.
The assessment further indicates that while the livestock situation still requires attention, there has been a marked improvement in the state of affairs. The national beef cattle herd increased from 5 443 770 cattle in the previous season to 5 478 648 this season, and the average national cattle mortality rate decreased from 12% in 2019 to 4.2% in 2020, due to improved disease control efforts, such as from the Presidential Tick Grease Scheme, and improved nutrition due to the good rainy season. Farmer are urged to go and collect their tick grease allocations from their local GMB Depots.
Egg production is increasing, reaching a new high of 59.3 million dozens in 2020, surpassing the 2019 production by 18% ( which was 50.4 million dozens) and 7% higher than previous record of 55.3 million in 2016.
Cabinet takes this opportunity to reassure the nation that every effort is being made to ensure minimal post-harvest losses, with local preservation methods, harvesting support and markets being procured for the benefit of our farmers. The public is urged to remain in constant touch with their Extension Officers for the necessary support.
4.0 UPDATE ON PREPARATIONS FOR THE 2021 WINTER WHEAT PRODUCTION SEASON
Cabinet received and approved an Update on Preparations for the 2021 Winter Wheat Production Season, which was presented by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement.
The nation is advised that out of the original target of 75 000 hectares for planting wheat, 68 184 hectares are now available for the three schemes which support production, namely: CBZ Agro-Yield, Food Crop Contractors and Presidential Wheat Support Scheme, compared to a total of 44 600 hectares which were contracted for the whole season last year. The ongoing contracting of farmers has been enhanced by the use of information communication technologies, starting with the provision of electronic gadgets to extension staff.
The provision of inputs is better than previous seasons, with all inputs for the private sector contracted hectarage having been secured and distribution is in progress. The 27 000 metric tonnes of basal fertilizer, 25 999 metric tonnes of top dressing fertilizer and 7 450 metric tonnes of wheat seeds required for the CBZ Agro-Yield programme are available, with 3 302 metric tonnes of basal fertilizer and 2 783 metric tonnes of top dressing having been distributed. For the Presidential Winter Wheat Scheme, seed and fertilizer supply contracts for the 10 000 hectares are being processed.
Regarding electricity and water supply, the nation is assured that sufficient supplies are available to meet planting requirements, with the water level in Kariba double that at the same time last year. A high-level Key Stakeholders Taskforce has been established to ensure availability of these critical enablers, and ZINWA has already held a successful stakeholders meeting ahead of the winter season.
Accordingly, a better season is expected, supported by a robust monitoring and evaluation framework, capacitated extension officers, and supplemented by weekly meetings of contractors and Government.
5.0 PHARMACEUTICAL MANUFACTURING STRATEGY IN ZIMBABWE: 2021-2025
Cabinet considered and approved the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Strategy in Zimbabwe: 2021-2025, which was presented by the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development as Chairman of the Combined Cabinet Committee on Science and Technology Development and Application, and Industrialisation and Export Development.
Cabinet acknowledged that the major challenge bedevilling the pharmaceutical sector was low production as a result of use of obsolete and antiquated equipment, cumbersome registration procedures and limited innovation. Implementation of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Strategy will not only resolve these bottlenecks but will also result in increased production of essential medicines for both domestic and export markets.
The objectives of the Strategy include the following: to increase the market share of local pharmaceutical products from the current 12% to 35% by 2025; to increase local production of essential medicines from US$31.5 million to US$150 million by 2025; to increase local production of essential medicines from 30% to 60% by 2025; and to improve exports of pharmaceutical products from 10% to 25% by 2025.
The following measures will be employed in order for the pharmaceutical sector to meet the set objectives:
1. increased production;
2. enhancement of competitiveness;
3. market expansion;
4. production diversification;
5. export development;
6. improved ease of doing business; and
7. mobilisation of the required financial resources.
In order to increase production, Government institutions and hospitals will be encouraged to procure pharmaceutical products from Local manufacturers in line with the local Content Strategy.
Competitiveness of the local pharmaceutical industry will be achieved through such measures as the use of raw materials that are exempted from import duties as well as Value Added Tax deferment. NatPharm will increase its capacity to procure locally manufactured pharmaceutical products. Furthermore, the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) will be capacitated to ensure faster registration of pharmaceutical products and to develop a programme on plant refurbishments, and upgrading and improvements in Quality Management Systems. This will ensure that the local manufacturers comply with international pharmaceutical manufacturing quality standards and enhance competitiveness locally and internationally. Government, in collaboration with local industry, will also push for the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers in order to promote export development.
The Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Strategy, the first one in the history of Zimbabwe, is envisaged to facilitate the growth of the sector and guarantee affordable medicines for the citizens.
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