With Beatrice Tonhodzayi
Has Coronavirus gone? Is that your understanding now? Do you think Covid-19 has disappeared from this country? Has the risk gone? I ask this question after observing some changes in the way people are behaving. People are letting loose.
Some think it is now time to get together and party. Yes people are now hosting groups for a drink or a meal. Some are just milling about in public spaces. You even wonder what they will be really doing. I know it is hard and has been hard on many of us to be cooped up in the home since the end of March. Some in other parts of the world have been at it longer.
This is because there is still no solution to this pandemic. Daily we hear of people dying across the world. And each day it gets closer to home. I have spoken to two friends in recent weeks who have lost loved ones in the United Kingdom to this monster. Zimbabweans are dying in the diaspora. And here at home; people are testing positive to Covid-19 still while many more do not know whether they have it or not because of the testing which is not readily available or cheap.
So why do I get the sense that some people think the coast is clear now.
I went to the supermarket the other day and gone was the system where customers would queue outside the shop and go inside in smaller batches so as to avoid having large crowds of people in the shop all at once.
While they were still doing temperature checks and sanitizing people as they got in; there was no limit to the number of people that were getting into the shop at any given time.
And indeed once I got inside the shop; there were many people; leading to jostling. Being ignored were the boxes that the shops have put in place to ensure that there is enough distance between customers waiting for their turn at the till. People were now just randomly standing close together. People; the one to two metre distance is still necessary. Not getting too close to people you don’t know is still necessary.
I have also heard of some going into their barber-shops and nail bars. I am not sure about the social distancing and precautions being taken there but I know enough about Covid-19 from reading up on it that it tends to thrive in such places. So I have just been wondering; did I miss the memo somewhere?
Is Coronavirus no longer a threat in this country? Was it declared officially over? Did someone tell some people somewhere that there is no risk whatsoever to us as Zimbabweans now?
I don’t know about other countries but I have also read reports of people who started gathering and partying when lockdown regulations were eased; leading to a spike in new infections. Even as I write and as you read today; thousands of people continue to die around us from Covid-19.
So where did we get this information that the storm has passed and we can now just do and behave anyhow?
The President announced a further easing of our lockdown last week and this has seen businesses opening and operating longer hours than before. This is a noble move for industry has to keep functioning. After all products and services are still requested. Also; salaries need to be paid. People still need to live even as this virus rages.
But he still called for safety and caution.
Employers even as they open up gradually to more people; have to still ensure that they do not brew disaster by just calling large numbers of people in without clear strategies of ensuring safety. Or they too will rue their actions.
After seeing people lining up queuing for transport in town; I feel there is need for some form of controls in that area or we end up with serious problems.
There is need to ensure that there is sufficient transport so that people do not end up shoving and pushing; getting rather too close to each other and infecting one another in the process. After all; these are people coming from different places where they mix and interact with different people who also interact with different people. And therein lies the danger of covid-19. That is why for now; in the absence of any lasting solution to this Covid-19 scare; experts are telling us to stay safe by staying indoors.
I was by Sam Levy’s Village in Borrowdale for some business the other day and I must say I felt the full impact of Covid-19 that day. Shops were closed and human and vehicle traffic was just depressed. In fact, it was eerily silent and the car park looked sad and deserted. I thought of the time when the place was always teeming with both human and vehicle traffic as we did our lunches with friends and business colleagues. I remembered the days when the pubs at the village were always full.
I remembered the sight of teenagers hanging out at the village, going for movies and grabbing burgers at their favourite hangout spots. I thought of the many clothing shops at the village and how they used to buzz with activity. But most importantly I wondered about the people who worked at the place as well as the ones behind the businesses operating there. They must be in serious trouble business wise. The teenagers who used to meet up there must be bored. But safety is more important than stupid fun at the expense of your health and that of others.
These are not usual times. Even profits become secondary at times when human life is under threat. Surely that should show us that as mush as we have to work and do what we can to keep eating; we cannot fool ourselves into thinking the danger is gone.
The danger is very much there. We have been self-isolating with our families since April started and now as we meet up with other people; let us make sure we still protect our families. For each person you meet is going back to some other people.
So in whatever you do, remember the reality. The reality is that Covid-19 is still with us. Millions have been infected globally at just under 5 million while more 320 000 people have died. Thankfully in Zimbabwe cases are at 46 to date. We keep praying for this kind of Grace to remain with us.
But don’t ever be stupid. This is not the time.