By Beatrice Tonhodzayi
Temperatures have been getting lower and lower as the cold winter sets in. And as expected, many people are catching colds and coughs.
It was a relief to many that schools closed because all of a sudden colds and coughs which we were no longer coming across were surfacing. Ever since Covid-19 surfaced and Zimbabwe had its first lockdown; I had not seen anyone suffering from a cold. There was a time when it became a joke in many groups that coughs and colds had disappeared with the coming of Covid-19 on the scene.
This was obviously a result of the masks, washing of hands with soap and water, social distancing and the lockdowns. Last year we were at home when winter first set in and when we made our way out; it was with a lot of caution with all of us wearing our masks, washing hands every few minutes and avoiding people who are outside of our bubble as much as possible. The steaming (kunatira) and all the concoctions mostly made up of lemons, ginger, honey, zumbani and the other herbs was also in full force. Somehow the colds just disappeared.
This winter season however, is different. The economy is operating at full throttle. People are out there doing business. Schools were open till a few days ago while people are having parties and going about their usual business as always. And many people are catching colds and coughs. Of course in most cases; you will not know it. Because ever since Covid-19 if there is something that people do not want to show signs of having; it is colds and coughs. Someone with a cough will try to hide it as much as possible under that mask.
I have heard all manner of throat clearing in recent days as people try to hide their coughs behind the mask. It is almost an unwritten rule now that one cannot suffer from a cough or a cold. No one wants to be near you once you exhibit signs of a cough or a cold. It is that bad.
But truth be told, coughs and colds will happen especially due to these low temperatures where we have been experiencing temperatures as low as 10 degrees. Before schools closed, many parents were complaining of how the children were coming back from school with coughs and colds. Now you know there is no place where colds and coughs spread faster than in schools and creches. Those children come back with colds every other day. When schools were closed due to lockdowns; the pattern had changed but now that those little people were going to school; the pattern resurfaced and the children got colds and in turn took them home.
We thank the Government for ensuring that those in boarding schools remained at school for the duration of the school term and only left when schools closed. Because colds spread like a veld fire in schools. And the children carry the germs back home. The same applies with this stubborn virus called Covid-19. The washing of hands and wearing of masks that we have been doing has really cut down on the spread of the common flu and Covid-19 itself but we can never be complacent. Now that temperatures are this low; we have more colds and coughs.
Now in this Covid-era the last thing we would want is a situation where colds and coughs are spreading unchecked as that may also see the virus itself spreading. Already we have heard alarm bells being rung as Covid-19 cases surge and deaths also increase here in our country. In neighbouring South Africa it also looks grim. Let us be careful and stay home unless it is necessary to be out.
Most companies and organisations have put in place policies where those with coughs and colds and other covid-19 related symptoms are encouraged to stay home. This is a cautionary move even though colds and coughs existed and will exist beyond Covid-19. It is a safety measure. And it is on that cautionary tip that I am writing today. If you are feeling unwell, is it not better to stay home and be safe? Someone coughed the other day in a supermarket (I think he swallowed the wrong way or chocked on something beneath that mask) and I saw everyone scurrying far away from them and carefully adjusting their masks to fully cover their noses. Yes, coughing, and sniffling now seems to cause a lot of people discomfort and as a result can lead to an increase in stigmatizing behaviours.
A relative who works as a childminder was chronicling how her employers had banished her to the cottage after she caught a cold and cough and did not allow her to even go near the baby.
I tried to explain to her that this has become standard with those exhibiting signs of a cold being advised to isolate while they recover. Thankfully she understood it as her employers made sure she had medication and was tested and it turned out she just had a cold. Once she recovered, she was re-admitted into the main house and back to the baby she minds. Yes; you can actually suffer for not being ill. So stay home when unwell and look out for yourself and others.
In all our doing; let us be careful. Let us keep warm. Let us keep those masks on. Let us avoid crowds. Let us avoid catching colds and coughs. Let us avoid getting Covid-19 or spreading it. It tends to thrive under these cold temperatures where we huddle together in enclosed spaces for warmth. It will take advantage of our failing to keep up the handwashing and hygienic practices because of the cold. We don’t want to see some horrifying third wave cripple us. Lockdowns are truly detrimental to our economies and mental health. So let us be responsible this winter.
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