No jab, no PSC bus ride: Govt

BY MOSES MATENGA/RICHARD MUPONDE/NQOBANI NDLOVU/MTHANDAZO NYONI

UNVACCINATED government workers will now be barred from boarding Public Service Commission (PSC) buses while all government departments have been ordered to further decongest workplaces and operate with a staff complement of 10% as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration moves to introduce mandatory vaccination in the country.

Civil servants who contract the  virulent virus without being vaccinated will be denied COVID-19 allowances, a development observers said was tantamount to forcing government workers to be inoculated.

In circular no 19 of 2021 dated July 19, Public Service Commission secretary Jonathan Wutawunashe said civil servants should provide proof of vaccination before boarding buses.

“The PSC shall ensure fumigation of buses daily and after each trip,” Wutawunashe said.

“Only members with proof of vaccination against COVID-19 shall board PSC buses.  The PSC shall observe social distancing in buses, with each bus carrying a maximum of 35 passengers. The PSC shall ensure fumigation of buses daily and after each trip.”

Wutawunashe added: “Ministries are directed to reduce the number of staff coming to work from 40% to 10% for all line ministries, departments and agencies with the exception of the Ministry of Health and Child Care and designated critical services with

immediate effect.

“Line ministries should rotate staff in such a manner that no employee shall remain at home for more than 21 days at a stretch.”

Zimbabwe National Teachers Union chief executive officer Manuel Nyawo said the directive had deviated from the initial government position, and violated constitutional rights and freedoms.

“Why deviate from the original position where the same government said it was not going to force anyone to be vaccinated,” Nyawo said.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association secretary-general Goodwill Taderera confirmed that his union had received the circular.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou described the decision to force civil servants to be vaccinated as “madness”.

“Vaccination must be voluntary and not mandatory. Civil servants will resist the mandatory model by all means necessary,” he said.

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in the country, with fatalities hitting 102 last Friday.

Mnangagwa has in the past threatened to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory in the wake of a surge in confirmed cases and fatalities in the country.

Although vaccination is voluntary in the country, the increase in incidents in which a vaccination certificate is required has created a huge demand for the document.

An investigation by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) has exposed that some health workers were reportedly demanding bribes to release COVID-19 vaccination cards to unvaccinated people.

Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, in a post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday said government was concerned over the surge in cases attributable to general complacency in communities and workplaces.

“In light of the continued rise in COVID-19 cases, Cabinet approved the decongesting of both public and private sector workplaces,” Mutsvangwa said.

“In taking the lead, government has further reduced its workforce to (10%), on a two-week rotational interval. Priority will be given to the vaccinated personnel,” she said.

She said the courts would be opened only for remand and urgent cases.

“… that all civil servants should be vaccinated and those that fall ill without having been vaccinated will not be entitled to the COVID-19 insurance,” she said.

“That all civil servants should be tested for COVID-19 at the commencement and end of the two-week rotational interval; that a locum-based COVID-19 risk allowance payment model will be adopted for the health personnel in the red zone as part of the incentive schemes.”

Cabinet said more vaccines would be made available soon to ensure that the country vaccinated over 10 million people required to achieve 60% herd immunity.

In June, government set July 14 as the deadline for all frontline health workers to get vaccinated against the global pandemic to be eligible for COVID-19 insurance payouts.

In the same month, Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga announced that vaccination would “soon” become mandatory at busy public markets in Harare and Bulawayo.

However, the country, which is in the grip of the third wave of infections driven by the Delta and Beta variants of the virus, is facing a shortage of COVID-19 vaccination cards.

In its latest situational analysis of the COVID-19 vaccination programme by community resource monitors, Zimcodd said officials in the health sector were issuing vaccination cards to unvaccinated people, putting the government’s vaccination programme in
jeopardy.

Health deputy minister John Mangwiro, however, told NewsDay that he was not aware of the issue, but promised to investigate.

Government in February this year launched the national vaccination programme, and as at yesterday morning, 1,18 million people had received the first dose and 643 203 the second dose.

As of July 19, Zimbabwe had recorded 85 732 COVID-19 cases, 55 714 recoveries and 2 697 deaths, according to official figures.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has written to Chiwenga demanding that those vaccinated should be issued with proper vaccination cards, instead of hand-written cards.

ZLHR lawyer Paidamoyo Saurombe said his organisation had observed that some vaccination centres were not issuing vaccination cards, but hand-written papers in place of vaccination cards.

Saurombe said failure to issue vaccination cards would compromise government’s vaccination efforts.

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