Do quarantine inmates have rights?

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SO the Zimbabwean perspective has created its own reality over what is acceptable and what is not. I was surprised to note that there actually are guidelines on how to manage quarantine centres, and these go as far as highlighting minimum standards. Yet not followed. People have actually grown larger than their offices, and since power lies in their pockets, and all knowledge belongs to them, alternative views show dissent, and should be silenced. Albeit without validation.

After questioning one of the responsible officials on certain protocols that had been flouted, and those that would continue to be flouted if things did not change, I got his response. Albeit through comments he then made to individuals known to me. I was arrogant!

Of cause to err is human, but let’s define arrogance:

 Is highlighting public health hazards that continue to be perpetuated during your watch arrogance?

 Is highlighting your absence in pandemics of global proportions arrogance?

 Is advocating for better handling of returnees in light of an impending epidemic arrogance?

If so, then I’ll gladly embrace the label, and many others that will come with this write-up.

On a personal note, I will start by highlighting that in as much as the COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge, it is also a personal one. What are the known facts?

The world over has been getting comfort from the fact that COVID-19 seems to cause health challenges to two groups of people, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions. Public health officials and politicians will speak of the COVID-19 deaths as a statistic, just 5,87% they say. But is it the same for those that lose their lives and their immediate families? To them is mortality just a mere statistic?

If the answer is no, then everyone’s voice must be heard. Everyone is responsible for their own survival or even death, and my desperate call is from a selfish perspective inasmuch as it is from a public health view point.

I was clear in my call for better quarantine conditions from day one. Both from a public health perspective and a self-preservatory one. Since the onset of the COVID-19 threat in Africa, specifically in Zimbabwe, and Namibia where I was briefly, I exercised all the necessary precautions. Social distancing, masks, and handwashing helped me to maintain the status kept until my day 22 in quarantine. This is not to stigmatise anyone who tests positive (anyone is vulnerable) but we would not preach these things if they didn’t work in delaying, or even preventing an epidemic.

From a selfish perspective I was, and still am, aware to my own vulnerability. So people have to relax because this illness is only dangerous to those with underlying health issues?

Check: I do have one, a consistent respiratory challenge since childhood. So this means I am among that 5,87% which makes the rest of the population vulnerable.

The first checkpoint already puts me in the critical 5,87% that could end up as statistics. However there are other confounding factors that increase or decrease vulnerability. So again I go on a fact check. Who has been hardest hit at the moment? Western countries, and with the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain leading the pack. All of these with their modernised healthcare systems. So what are my chances, here in Zimbabwe? Does my perceived mortality risk, in case I catch COVID-19, still remain at 5,87%? Odds are it could be higher.
Back to my story:

 I have highlighted gaps that are glaring in our handling of the COVID-19 response, and I don’t consider that to be arrogance. Any misdeeds could actually endanger lives beyond mine.

 Frustration mounts as guidelines continue to be flouted on a daily basis and there is no reprieve. Officials speak of disabling budget deficits, and being powerless to institute the differences that matter. When those that matter do show up, everyone is keen to save their own skin as they become either defensive or outrightly offensive. Even those that initially purported to understand your plight switch sides.

 We talk about the perceived risk posed by us inmates to the community. What are we trying to avoid? Death? What about the risk to the individual within the facility, is it not of concern to anyone? I suppose not even to the affected individual?

 There is no clear-cut communication channel with those that hold the power, so social media and internet publications become the only option. Albeit with some serious backlash and repercussions.
I pause to reflect. How do budgetary constraints affect cohorting?
So again I check, do I want to be a lab rat? The answer is no. I wish to live and I will not be taken as an experiment in a world and country where there are guidelines, procedures, and processes.
Upon arrival in the country I complained over the indiscriminate mixing of returnees in light of an pandemic that was easily contagious, without any joy.

I have been in quarantine for 22 days, tested, and due for discharge, still with no joy, as my centre is supposedly compromised. Compromised by exactly the same conditions I have been crying foul over… The same conditions I am supposed to live in over the next eight days…

Is my questioning arrogance?

After eight days there is a possibility that one of us will test positive, and we will further be detained. I will question again and be labelled arrogant…

What then is not arrogance in the presence of an impending pandemic of global proportions? Do I have to wait and become a statistic and be the model citizen this country requires me to be? I stand guided, but I am desperate. And so are multitudes vulnerables like me.

Such is the plight of us COVID-19 prisoners. At least I can write, imagine those that cannot.

 Peter Mzilikazi writes in his personal capacity