Schools will remain open under enhanced prevention and control measures after a small number of schools were hit by outbreaks of Covid-19 when classes resumed.
The number of children infected is very small when looking at the total school enrolment and almost all have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms.
Schools have returned to standard in-class lessons after a prolonged furlough during the third and worst wave of Covid-19 infections that hit Zimbabwe when infection rates were too high for safe opening.
But there have been outbreaks at a few schools, all being managed under procedures put in place before the opening and with health experts reasonably satisfied that the controls and treatments are working.
Speaking after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said it was not necessary to close schools since the reported cases were too insignificant to torpedo successes recorded so far.
“This week the number of cases recorded went up to 1 669. The education sector contributed significantly to this increase. The meeting, however, noted that out of a total school enrolment of 4,6 million, the number of Covid-19-positive cases detected is insignificant.
“All cases are being well-managed in line with the standard guidelines for the coordinated prevention and management of Covid-19 at all learning institutions in Zimbabwe.
“Furthermore, most cases among learners are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms. Accordingly, Cabinet resolved that schools will remain open. Learners who are isolated will be provided with alternative learning platforms,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
Cabinet noted that cases in areas previously declared hotspots had decreased significantly over the last 21 days and were continuing to decline, due to the effective Covid-19 control measures and protocols put in place by the Government.
“Treasury has also consistently provided the much-needed financial resources for the mitigation measures, with $34,2 billion having been availed so far. These measures have, in general, seen a sustained decrease in the number of people in need of hospitalisation for Covid-19, with the country’s hospital bed-occupancy rate decreasing from 6,9 percent the previous week to 5,6 percent this week,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
She said the Government has instituted measures to contain Covid-19 in schools like enhancement of surveillance and contact-tracing at schools and in the surrounding communities.
Increased on-site testing of all suspected cases, contacts and surrounding communities and isolation and management of all positive cases as well as quarantining of those exposed, while movement will be restricted in affected schools until the outbreaks have been controlled.
Minister Mutsvangwa said public health and social distancing protocols, including social distancing, hand washing, sanitisation and wearing of face masks will be enhanced.
Also teachers will be empowered to detect and report suspected cases, there will be enhanced awareness campaigns in schools and surrounding communities while vaccination of all eligible populations in schools and surrounding communities will be done.
Minister Mutsvangwa said as of Sunday, 2 949 025 people had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 2 065 395 their second dose across the country.
“This translates to a national coverage of 34.7 percent for the first dose and 24.3 percent for the second dose.
“Of special note is that the City of Bulawayo, at 52.6 percent for the first dose and 40.3 percent for the second is edging towards herd immunity, along with Matabeleland North where Victoria Falls has already surpassed its herd immunity.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair which started in Bulawayo yesterday with local and international exhibitors participating is being held in strict compliance with Covid-19 containment measures.
A number of high-level engagements are to be held at the fair, including the calendar International Business Conference, which which will be led today by Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Constantino Chiwenga. President Mnangangwa officially opens the fair tomorrow.