I bet no one ever thought we would be where we are today.
No ZITF in April? No church gatherings of more than 100 at a time? Is that not your usual Sunday service though? The children’s schools have cancelled most sporting activities; consultation meetings and many other events. This is serious. My niece in England was telling me at the weekend that she was in town doing food shopping and stocking up in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. However she raised concerns that some of the stuff was not on the shelves. Coronavirus/Covid-19 has been declared a global pandemic.
Yes pandemic; you heard me right. The last time we spoke of a pandemic; it was in reference to HIV- that virus which develops into AIDS in the absence of treatment to stop multiplication of the virus. AIDS killed thousands upon thousands of people; especially here in Africa; at its peak. To this date; people are dying of AIDS related illnesses.
Hence the classification by the World Health Organisation of Covid-19 as a virus shows that this is quite serious.
Thankfully the Zimbabwean Government has also woken up to the reality that this pandemic is.
The President has declared Covid-19 a national disaster; suspended unnecessary travel, put all health facilities on high alert, suspended for 60 days public events and gatherings of more than 100 people and put in place a national communication taskforce.
This week alone I have heard authoritative voices from Government clearly outlining the country’s plans regarding this scare.
We needed that.
I was beginning to think we were a bit too relaxed. While we were talking about Coronavirus; you could sense that some were thinking this was a problem for other countries and not ours here in Zimbabwe.
I even heard some people comfort each other by saying Coronavirus does not affect black people. Yes; you heard me right. Some also said Africa would not be affected because of its warm climate. Now that South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal and others have confirmed Covid 19 cases; I don’t know how that argument will sail. Now that my crush; British actor and singer Idris Elba has announced that he has Coronavirus and is proudly black like you and me; will that argument hold water? And now that all these African countries have got confirmed cases- you can see that it s finally sinking that we are not immune and our level of preparedness has to be up there.
There is plenty of fake news going round about Coronavirus and it is grossly irresponsible now to just spread or share stuff you pick on your social networking groups without verifying it. Some of this fake news is meant to spread panic and despondency and can also fuel stigma, discrimination and xenophobia.
Frankly the way Coronavirus has been pitched from Day One placed the Chinese in very negative light. I heard my child speaking about conversations he had with other boys at school the other day and became very worried. He said the Chinese learners in attendance at a sports day were literally being ostracized by others.
He went further to say when the boys went to a food court and saw some Chinese nationals; they quickly ran back into the car. You see!
These are children; our children. They have heard what the media and what we as adults have been saying about this virus. It has been blamed on certain groups and nationalities; which is wrong.
And it will breed for us problems that we have to deal with at some point in future. This virus is not a Chinese virus. It affects all of us and we need to take ownership and do what we can to prevent it where we can.
I therefore write today calling on all of us to be responsible. Coronavirus affects all of us at a personal level. Have you seen the amount of businesses that have been affected by this pandemic? I have read of airlines that have sent workers home and right now I have family that have been told to work from home. In Italy we have friends who tell us of being cooped up indoors where some have become depressive. I think we saw videos and images of fights breaking out over toilet tissue in Australia while shop shelves have been going empty across Europe. In neighbouring South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a state of disaster and closed off a sizeable number of ports of entry leading in and out of the country.
The tourism sector in Zimbabwe and globally has been hugely affected and the impact will soon be telling. As a country; we shall also be counting our losses as traditional visitors to the country remain in lockdown in their home countries.
Just think of the ZITF. For years; this is how people in Bulawayo have made money. This is the biggest showcase the city holds and had become a cash cow for many businesses and homeowners. Its postponement deals a fatal blow to many.
I am sure business people who have been getting their wares from China may also be felling the pinch now. How about those whose children are in China and unable to come back home while they also cannot go and see them? We are none of us unscathed. This virus must see all of us coming together rather than being irresponsible and spreading fake news. I am glad that a National Communication Taskforce has been constituted as announced by President Mnangagwa in his State of the Nation address. There is need for coordinated accurate regular information briefs that come from responsible and relevant authorities. Citizens must not rely on social media for updates but up to date officials channels.
While this happens; at an individual level; we all need to practice the highest standards of hygiene. Let us wash our hands with soap and water. Let us maintain social distances. Let us avoid crowded places. If one is well; there is need to self -isolate. Any suspected symptoms of Covid-19; let us rush to report. And let us pray.