1.0.PROCUREMENT AND ROLL-OUT OF COVID-19 VACCINES IN ZIMBABWE
Cabinet received updates on the procurement and roll out of COVID-19 vaccines in Zimbabwe, which the Honourable Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care presented in conjuction with the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.
Cabinet was informed that the country is saddled with a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that has manifested in high infection and death rates countrywide, with the compounding factor being the new strain which is more infectious and virulent. While a trend of some decline in infections and deaths had been recorded as a result of the lockdown measures currently in place to contain the outbreak, it is imperative that the country accelerates the acquisition of vaccines in order to halt a potential third wave.
In that regard, Cabinet endorsed the following key guidelines :
(a)that Zimbabwe’s vaccination programme, in particular the choice of vaccines, needs to be science-based, with adequate research and findings guiding decision-making and course of action;
(b)that Zimbabwe will take decisions independently in the national interest, without undue influence;
(c)that the vaccination programme shall be undertake in a structured manner, with groups such as the health frontline workers being accorded first priority.
Regarding the COVID-19 vaccination programme, the Ministry of Health and Child Care plans to vaccinate about 60% of the country’s population in order to achieve herd immunity (10 million people). A development plan mapping the priority groups for roll-out of the vaccine has already been developed. Already, Government has set aside US$100 million for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. Treasury will continue to ensure funding for procurement of other medical supplies including medicines and PPE in the fight against the COVID-19.
In terms of vaccines procurement, the Government of the People’s Republic of China extended a donation of 200 000 SINOPHARM COVID-19 vaccine doses. The donation and initial batch purchased are expected in Zimbabwe by 15 February 2021 and the first week of March, 2021, respectively. The 76 to 86 per cent efficacy of the SINOPHARM vaccine was endorsed by the World Health Organisation.
Meanwhile, efforts to procure other COVID-19 vaccines such as the Sputnik V (Victory) from Russia, among others, are underway. India, like China, has also offered a donation and an option to purchase commercially and modalities for this offer are still being worked out. Zimbabwe has also submitted its expression of interest to participate under the AU COVID-19 Vaccination Programme. The private sector will also support Government through a formula that them to keep 50% of what they procure for their employees
The COVID-19 Vaccines will be administered to citizens freely. The initial consignment will cater for frontline workers, the elderly and other vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe. The administration of the COVID-19 vaccinations in Zimbabwe will be on a voluntary basis.
2.0 UPDATE ON THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Cabinet received an update on the country’s response to the COVID-19 Outbreak, which the Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs presented as the Chairperson of the Ministerial Task Force on the COVID-19 Outbreak.
Cabinet was informed that as at 5 February 2021, Zimbabwe’s cumulative COVID-19 cases stood at 34 171, with 27 759 recoveries, 1 288 deaths and a Case Fatality Rate of 3.8%. The recovery rate has improved to 81%, with 32 474 persons having tested COVID-19 positive from local transmission. There are 5 124 active cases. The cumulative number of infected Health Care Workers now stands at 3 718, up from 3 442.
It is noted that 32.8% of COVID-19 related deaths have been occurring in communities, while the remaining 67.2% have occurred in health facilities. In light of the high percentage of community deaths, Government is working on updating guidelines for informing the public on how to manage cases isolating at home and when these cases should be taken to health facilities.
The production of Personal Protective Equipment and essential medicines is continuing and being complemented by imports. The enforcement of the curfew under the Level Four lockdown is continuing, and citizens are once again reminded of the need to observe all COVID-19 protocols and regulations in order to ensure that the nation stays on top of the situation in relation to the pandemic. The lockdown restrictions will be reviewed at the end of the two weeks extension period.
3.0 GOVERNMENT POSITION ON IRREGULAR AND DYSFUNCTIONAL SETTLEMENTS IN LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Cabinet received a report on Government’s position on irregular and dysfunctional settlements in local Authorities which Honourable Vice President C.G.D.N. Chiwenga presented. Cabinet noted that the current incessant rains since January 2021 have exposed a crisis that could no longer be ignored owing to the immediate impact on households and implications on livelihoods and businesses. The heavy rains have been flooding settlements on wetlands and in low lying areas and destroying homes and property, with relocation of affected households turning out to be the only viable option. The situation around illegal settlement has exposed irregularities and inadequacies in settlement siting, planning and management. There has been massive illegal construction of houses on wetlands and along river basins and other water bodies, and on land originally meant for social amenities; the construction of houses without supporting infrastructure for water, sewer, roads and electricity; and marooned settlements developed without links to formal services offered by towns and cities. There has also been construction of unapproved, sub-standard structures on illegal settlements created and controlled by land barons; rampant abuse of State and Municipal land; and encroachment onto private property. Land barons were working in cahoots with corrupt State and municipal officers and fleecing unsuspecting home-seekers.
Also evident is the widespread contamination of watercourses and water bodies, environmental degradation and the destruction of flora and habitats for fauna, and an emerging threat to public health
Accordingly, Cabinet resolved that Ministries, Departments and Agencies to work in concert in order to stem the tide of neglect and malpractices around illegal settlements. All those who broke the laws and by-laws on urban settlement will be brought to book without fear or favour.
Cabinet created Task Teams to correct the situation by instituting the following strategies :
(a)the mapping of wetlands and other ecologically sensitive spaces at growth points, in towns, cities and peri-urban areas. The exercise shall be expanded to cover the whole country in order to draw up a National Masterplan of all ecologically sensitive spaces on which human settlements and related developments shall not take place. A National Wetlands Policy and Guidelines is being formulated in order to protect the environment for sustainable development.
(b) the indentification of and quantification of all settlements in flood-prone areas, on illegal spaces and other irregular places and thereby enabling Government to establish the magnitude of likely displacements from unavoidable demolitions.
© the identification of suitable alternative land on which to relocate families and households facing displacement under the corrective exercise, both for temporary settlement and for the eventual construction of permanent structures.
(d) the provision of off-site and on-site infrastructure and general comprehensive servicing of land in anticipation of allocation of stands and construction of structures according to set plans and standards.
(e) to ensure that all such planned settlements are integrated into the
national power grid for electricity supply. In the same vein, the Ministry of
Information Communication Technologies, Postal and Courier Services will
ensure access to the requisite ICT services.
(f)the production of appropriate housing plans and architectural designs
which promote the new thrust of settlement densification through high-rise
structures, compact and integrated residential housing.
(g) the streamlining of the operations of co-operatives, including through de-registering all co-operatives which were captured by land barons but ensuring that innocent co-operatives and bona fide home-seekers are not unduly victimized.
(h) the re-drawing of boundaries and de-demarcations are done to clearly
assign jurisdiction, rights, responsibilities and entitlements. The Zimbabwe
Anti-Corruption Commission and the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in the
Office of the President and Cabinet will be part of this process in order to
ensure that corrupt individuals are arrested and the law takes its course.
Implementation of these directives will be spearheaded by the enhanced Cabinet Committee on Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Management which will be chaired by the Honourable Vice President C.G.D.N.
4.0 STATE OF THE COUNTRY’S ROADS
Following a presentationon the state of the country’s roads by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Cabinet noted that due to extensive damage on roads, some areas have been rendered inaccessible. This state of affairs has adversely affected socio-economic activities such as distribution of food and inputs and the delivery of important services.
Cabinet has resolved that all roads in the country be declared a State of Disaster. The Declaration will facilitate the release of resources for the repair and rehabilitation of all roads that require such works. The restorative works will cover all urban areas as well as the rural and trunk roads. It will also pave way for the standardization of quality under the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development. The necessary legal procedures to give effect to the declaration is being worked on.
5.0 THE STATUS OF THE 2020/21 AGRICULTURAL SEASON
Cabinet received a report on the status of the 2020/21 Agricultural Season, which the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement presented.
Cabinet noted that owing to a rainfall season across the country,gold yields are expected. Elaborate plans are therefore being put in place for efficient management of the 2020/2021 crops, particularly from harvesting to storage. Grain dryers have been purchased in order to expedite harvesting.
On a related positive note, Cabinet wishes to inform the nation that Tongaat Hullet and the Masvingo Development Trust have commenced harvesting of 2 500 hectares of the 2020 winter maize crop. The incessant rains are slowing down progress, and additional equipment is being mobilised in order to minimise losses.
The First and Second Rounds of Crop and Livestock Assessments results are expected end of February and April 2021, respectively. Preliminary assessments indicate that 338 619.3 hectares of maize were planted under the Pfumvudza Programme. A Monitoring and Evaluation Team has verified maize planting on 168 466 hectares under the National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Programme (Command Agriculture). A full report on the assessment on hectarage will be presented at the end of February 2021.
Meanwhile, measures have been put in place to ensure the current shortages of the top dressing fertiliser are decisively dealt with.
6.0 UPDATE ON THE 2021 WEATHER OUTLOOK AND IMPLICATIONS
The Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry briefed Cabinet on the 2021 Weather Outlook and Implications thereof. He reported that the rainfall outlook for the February to April 2021 period would be within the normal to above normal category across all the geographical regions of the country. As such, more rainfall is expected during the three months, with a likelihood of flooding and water logging in poorly drained areas.
The Minister reported that the average national dam level was at 88% as at 5 February, 2021, with anticipation that the levels would increase with the forecasted increased rainfalls. This should see water availability improving, hence resulting in high potential for more land under irrigation during the winter season. Pasture availability has also improved and are expected to continue improving with the expected rainfall during February, March and April.
The nation is thus advised to be on high alert, as a more natural disasters are likely to occur as a result of incessant rains. People in malaria-prone areas should take necessary precautions, while those on flood-prone areas should relocate to high ground. Government will continue to institute measures to protect its citizens in the advent of natural hazards.
7.0THE NATIONAL DISABILITY POLICY
Cabinet considered and approved the National Disability Policy,was presented by the Honourable Vice President as Chairman of the MinisterCabinet Committee on Social Services and Poverty Eradication.
The National Disability Policy seeks to address the marginalization and discrimination of Persons with Disabilities empower them to improve their own quality of life and enable them to contribute towards the national development agenda. It sets standards for the inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in all facets of life, thereby serving as an overarching policy framework on disability across all sectors, including the public, private and development sectors. Approval of the policy will pave way for the drafting of the Bill in line with the country’s Constitution.
8. 0 VIRTUAL SUMMIT OF THE AFRICAN UNION
Cabinet received an update on the Virtual Summit of the African Union which was held on the 6th to the February, 2021. The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development presented the update as the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Cabinet was informed that the 34th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government was held under the Chairmanship of His Excellency the President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His Excellency the President E.D. Mngangagwa led the Zimbabwean delegation. President Tshisekedi assumed the Chairmanship replacing His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.
Among other issues, the Summit dwealt on the continent’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The latest efforts spearhead by the African Vaccines Acquisition Task Team are aimed at acquiring equitable and affordable COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed to all AU Member Stares. The target is to ensure that at least 60% of the continent’s population is vaccinated within a reasonable timeframe. International and Continental finance institutions are supporting financing mechanisms for the procurement of vaccines as well as research and development in Member States.
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