Covid-19 Transmissions Escalate Amid Health Workers’ Strike

Local transmissions of covid-19 continue to rise with 13 out of the 14 new cases recorded yesterday having been internally transmitted, an update by the Ministry of Health and Child Care shows.

The only non-locally transmitted case was on an individual who recently returned from South Africa.

More worryingly, the development comes at a time health workers are continuing with the industrial action as they press for an increased wage.

“Two of the local cases are contacts to known confirmed cases, investigations are underway to establish the source of infection for the other 11,” read the statement.

To date, the country has recorded 605 cases of Covid-19, 166 recoveries and seven deaths.

Meanwhile, the Health Service Board (HSB) on Tuesday said it had submitted the demands of the striking health workers to government and was still awaiting a response.

HSB chairman Paulinus Sikosana made the remarks when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care led by acting chair Doubt Ndiweni.

Sikosana told the committee that the Zimbabwe Health Apex Council submitted a notice to HSB to withdraw services with immediate effect.

The Health Apex Council indicated that their salaries and health sector specific allowances had been eroded by inflation. They demanded that their salaries should revert to the October 1, figures in US$.

“Board sets conditions of service for health workers and does this in consultation with Treasury,” Sikosana said.

“The negotiations for these are done through the Health Service Bipartite Negotiation Panel (HSBNP). In this framework, the board normally makes recommendations to Treasury and the Treasury response usually informs the HSBNP negotiations,” he added

Two weeks ago, health workers declared a strike demanding US dollar salaries, rejecting a government offer of a 50% salary hike and non-taxable US$75 monthly COVID-19.

Sikosana revealed that government was still to pay the promised US$75 allowances and 50% salary increment and the HSB, which employs health workers, was pushing government to fulfil its promise.

“On June 18, 2020, government announced a 50% salary review and US$75 COVID-19 allowance for all government workers, inclusive of health workers,” Sikosana said.

“Salary schedules for payment of the adjusted salary and the US$75 risk allowance were completed and submitted to Treasury last week to facilitate immediate payment to health workers,”

Sikosana told Parliament that the HSB budget had always been and continues to be allocated as part of the Health ministry programs vote and Treasury managed it through the parent ministry.

He denied allegations of looting of COVID-19 funds.

“The HSB has its own accounts that are audited by the Auditor-General and is not on the government integrated public finance management system. Should the board require funding which may be outside the ordinarily approved allocation, a request is made to the Ministry of Health for the support required,” said Sikhosana.

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