High Court orders govt to protect frontline health workers, equip hospitals

THE High Court on Tuesday 14 April 2020 ordered government to provide
all frontline health practitioners with personal protective equipment
(PPE) to protect them from the deadly coronavirus as they execute
their duties and to adequately equip public hospitals with enough
supportive medication and help curb the spread of the epidemic.

High Court Judges Justice Joseph Musakwa and Justice Owen Tagu ordered
all frontline health practitioners working at public health facilities
in Zimbabwe or deployed to trace contacts exposed by infected people,
to be provided with adequate PPE and for sufficient testing kits to be
deployed at all designated public hospitals, airports and ports of
entry.

The determination by Justice Musakwa and Justice Tagu came after
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) represented
by Andrew Makoni and Jeremiah Bamu of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court on Sunday
5 April 2020 protesting against the risk of contracting coronavirus
(COVID-19) because government had not put in place measures to ensure
that health practitioners across the country, who include nurses,
nurse aides and pharmacists among others are adequately protected
against the deadly epidemic.

In a consent order agreed to by lawyers representing ZADHR and Health
and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo, Finance and Economic Development
Minister Mthuli Ncube and Transport and Economic Development Minister
Joel Biggie Matiza, who were listed as respondents in the application,
the parties agreed that government should ensure that adequate
measures are put in place to prevent, contain and treat the incidence
of coronavirus and to establish and appropriately equip quarantine and
isolation facilities in all provinces, district hospitals and at the
designated airports and ports of entry.

Justice Musakwa and Tagu also ordered that all frontline health
practitioners working at public health facilities in Zimbabwe or
deployed to trace contacts exposed by infected people should be
provided with adequate PPE while sufficient testing kits should be
deployed at all designated public hospitals, airports and ports of
entry.

The High Court also ordered that extensive screening and testing
should be carried out, including mobile or door to door testing in
order to account for asymptomatic carriers while all health
practitioners and personnel at the frontline should be regularly
screened and tested for coronavirus.
Justice Musakwa and Justice Tagu said more laboratories should be
established and equipped to test highly infectious diseases such as
coronavirus in every province to increase the turnaround time for
tests.

The judges also ruled that personnel responding to the coronavirus
pandemic including drivers and their assistants, security personnel
and essential services employees be regularly screened and tested
while authorised Zimbabwe United Passenger Company buses, omnibuses
and other passenger service vehicles operated by or on behalf of the
Public Service Association, the Police Service, the Defence Forces and
the Civil Protection Authorities and commuter omnibuses and other
passenger service vehicles operated or chartered by local authorities
for the carriage of staff for essential services, the carriage of sick
persons to hospitals and other health care, be disinfected upon
arrival and departure at each destination.

Justice Musakwa and Justice Tagu said frontline health practitioners
should be adequately trained on how to handle the coronavirus epidemic
and protect themselves from the risk of contamination while clear
guidelines should be provided to the public on the implementation of
the social distance principle especially in crowded suburbs.