UPDATE ON ZIMBABWE’S RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Cabinet received an update on the country’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which was presented by the Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs as the Chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on the COVID-19 Outbreak.
Cabinet was informed that as at 19 February 2021, Zimbabwe’s cumulative COVID-19 cases had increased to 35 315, with 30 979 recoveries, 1 414 deaths, a Case Fatality Rate (CFR) of 4%, and a recovery rate of 88%. Thirty-three thousand six hundred and eighteen (33 618) of the cases were attributed to local transmission. Active cases now stand at 2 922, while the cumulative number of infected Health Care Workers is 3 999, with 18 deaths. While the country’s epidemic curve is showing a general downward trend since mid-January 2021, communities are urged not to become complacent and to continue observing precautionary COVID-19 measures as prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the WHO guidelines in order to maintain the declining trend. Security personnel have therefore been directed to intensify monitoring and enforcement in order to enhance compliance.
Regarding primary and secondary education, the responsible Ministry continues to work with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to prepare for the inevitable re-opening of schools. Meanwhile, the training of school health coordinators and the assessment of the schools’ preparations for the resumption of learning is ongoing. Government is doing its best to ensure that adequate precautionary measures are taken before schools are opened.
- PROGRESS REPORT ON THE PROCUREMENT AND ROLL-OUT OF COVID-19 VACCINES
Cabinet received a progress report on the procurement and roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines, which was presented by the Honourable Vice President Chiwenga as Minister of Health and Child Care.
Cabinet was informed that the COVID-19 roll-out programme was launched on Thursday 17 February, 2021 at Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital. Vaccine distribution and training of vaccinators are underway across the country. Vaccination of target groups commenced on 22 February 2021 in all the provinces. Measures have been put in place to guarantee a steady flow of vaccine doses, and to ensure that targeted groups receive their doses at the appropriate time. The Republics of India and the Russian Federation have donated COVID-19 vaccines to the tune of 75 000 and 12 000 doses to Zimbabwe, respectively. The vaccines come on the backdrop of another 200 000 doses donated by the People’s Republic of China. Meanwhile, Government of Zimbabwe has put together resources sufficient to procure COVID-19 vaccines to cover the herd immunity of 10 million people (60%).
Cabinet has approved the request by the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services to include journalists in Phase One of the inoculation because journalism is listed as an essential service in SI 93 of 2020 and the media plays a crucial role in providing information that saves lives
Similarly, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development requested the Minister of Health and Child Care to designate the Roads Sector as an Essential Service under the lockdown regulations. The main reasons for the request include, but are not limited to the following:
- roads create an enabling environment in any economy as they bridge the conveyance gap between supply and demand;
- the importance of roads is further amplified in responses to disaster situations; and
- the current above-normal rains have brought severe damage to the national road network leaving communities cut off from assessing essential services; and
- The President has since declared roads in our towns and cities dysfunctional and government has committed to take over roads in urban areas for repairs.
3.0 THE INSURANCE BILL, 2020
Cabinet considered and approved the amendments to the Insurance Bill, 2020 which was presented by the Attorney-General on behalf of the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Legislation.
Among the amendments, Cabinet was informed that the Bill seeks to repeal the Insurance Act and introduce best practices in Zimbabwe’s insurance sector, which plays an important role in socio-economic development. Through the proposed amendments, Government intends to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Insurance and Pension Commission and the regulatory framework to create a robust and internationally respected insurance and pension industry regulator; synchronise the main acts that guide the regulation of the insurance and pensions industry; address identified deficiencies in the current legislation; and align insurance and pension legislation to international best practices in order to build a stronger regulatory framework that promote growth and development of the insurance and pensions industry.
The Bill sets out the rules to be followed in merging insurance societies, in the transfer of insurance business to another registered insurer, and in the payment of premiums to the registered insurer whenever an insurance broker receives the premiums from policy holders. Cabinet stressed that in order to guard against insolvency by insurance societies, every registered insurer will now be required to maintain a prescribed level of solvency. It will now be compulsory for insurance societies to submit financial statements within ninety days of each financial year. The statements must be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting practices. All insurers will be required to submit to the Commission an actuarial valuation report which must be harmonized with the relevant audit report. Insurers who wish to conduct electronic business must get Commission approval, while the issuance of disability benefits in life policies will be according to clearly spelt out conditions. An insurance fund shall not be executable by creditors who are not the policy owners. A registered insurer may not place assets outside Zimbabwe without Commission approval, including on percentages that may be prescribed.
In the event of currency change, Cabinet noted that steps must be taken by the registered person, including the actuarial valuation of the insurance business in order to re-calculate the liabilities and assets in line with the new currency. This provision is expected to enhance the protection of policy holders.
4.0 INSURANCE AND PENSIONS COMMISSION BILL, 2020
Cabinet considered and approved the Insurance and Pensions Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which was presented by the Attorney-General on behalf of the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Legislation.
The Amendment Bill mainly seeks to ensure the maintenance of a fair, safe and stable insurance and pensions sector for the benefit and protection of policy holders and pension fund members. The Bill gives the Insurance Commission the powers to accredit actuaries, auditors, asset managers, credit rating agencies and other service providers. The Commission will conduct investigations where it sees fit for the purpose of preventing contraventions in the insurance sector through provisions of the Bill. The Commission may cooperate with any supervisory authorities, including foreign law enforcement authorities or insurance and pensions authorities in investigations, enforcement, co-ordination and harmonization of laws, procedures and standards.
Among other functions, the Board of the Insurance and Pensions Commission shall ensure compensation is paid to beneficiaries for losses they may incur, and shall determine the level of such compensation, based on the different classes of insurance policies or type of pension or provident fund. Above all, the Commission shall keep and maintain asset registers for insurers, insurance brokers, pensions and provident funds. The National Social Security Authority, Medical Aid Societies and any other persons conducting insurance business will now be subject to regulation by the Commission.
The Insurance and Pensions Commission Bill will therefore strengthen the integrity of the insurance sector and enable it to play its role in supervising the sector.
5.0 PRINCIPLES OF THE AMENDMENT TO THE CHARTERED SECRETARIES (PRIVATE) ACT [CHAPTER 23:07]
Cabinet considered and approved the Principles for the Amendment of the Chartered Secretaries (Private) Act [Chapter 23:07], which were presented by the Attorney-General on behalf of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Cabinet was informed that the proposed amendments seek to expand the mandate of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in Zimbabwe to encourage the study and practice of accountancy and auditing by members and students of the Institute. The aim is to promote information and education on accountancy and auditing matters by all appropriate means, and to help the Institute to acquire any rights or privileges which the Institute may regard as necessary or convenient for its purpose in life. The amendments will also provide for donations for promoting the interests of the Chartered Governance and Accountancy profession. The Institute, to be renamed “The Chartered Governance and Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe”, will provide education and training in professional branches which encompass corporate secretaries, managers, administrators, tax consultants, financial managers, accountants and auditors.
6.0 RE-TARGETING OF THE FOOD DEFICIT MITIGATION PROGRAMME BENEFICIARIES
Cabinet approved the proposed retargeting of the Food Mitigation Programme beneficiaries as presented by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare as Acting Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Social Services and Poverty Eradication.
This was in view of the need to ensure that the programme targets clearly deserving beneficiaries in light of the need for flexibility and to do away with the dependency syndrome among the citizenry.
7.0 UNWARRANTED PRICE HIKES IN SHOPS
Cabinet takes exception to the recent unwarranted hikes in prices of goods and services by unscrupulous business people. Government would like to inform the nation that investigations into the matter are currently underway, and that Government will leave no stone unturned until it brings the culprits to book.
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