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As the World Health Organisation (WHO) signals that the number of people infected with Covid-19 has breached the 1 million mark, with more than 58,000 dead around the world, Zimbabwe does not feature among the list of countries most affected. This is no doubt because, with the healthcare system in tatters, there is no way of assessing the reach of the deadly coronavirus in the country. As author Cathy Buckle illustrates in her latest piece, it would be more surprising for a Zimbabwean to avoid contracting Covid-19 than catching it. What’s more, encouraging the spread are the very people tasked with trying to contain it: police men and women do not have protective masks, nor do they seem to understand the need to keep a social distance. With shortages of clean water, soap, food and medicine and very little medical care available, the future looks particularly bleak for South Africa’s northern neighbour even though it registered only nine cases on the WHO map as of Sunday 5 April while South Africa’s official number rose above 1,500. – Jackie Cameron
Coping with coronavirus Zimbabwe style – Cathy Buckle
By Cathy Buckle*
On an early morning emergency dash to collect supplies I was anxious about venturing out and what I would see. It was Day 5 of Zimbabwe’s 21 day Coronavirus lockdown and I knew that by now people who live hand to mouth and eke out a living selling fruit and vegetables from roadside stalls would be getting desperate. Our taps were dry for the second day running and with gloves and a mask on I set out. People were out looking for water already, so far there was no news on where there were supplies of maize meal, the staple food.
I passed a man pushing a wheelbarrow with five empty yellow water containers, heading towards a public borehole. Fourteen people were already there ahead of him, standing in line at the borehole waiting for their turn to use the hand pump and fill their containers with water. This is coping with Coronavirus Zimbabwe style.
Further along a policewoman in uniform ignored me, she was busy taking a selfie photograph of herself on the side of the road, a block or two from the town centre. She wasn’t wearing a face mask. A group of four police men and women armed with truncheons were having an altercation with a man carrying a small cardboard box. None of the police were wearing face masks despite being a few inches away from the man. This is coping with Coronavirus Zimbabwe style.
All week we’ve been seeing pictures of big crowds of people desperately trying to buy maize meal in Harare and Bulawayo. No chance for social distancing, no sign of masks, just a massive squash of people trying to get food for their families, people who have to choose between hunger and an invisible virus. Almost five hundred people have been arrested this week for being on the streets in breach of lockdown, crammed into police lorries and taken away but in the same week 1680 prisoners have been released because prisons are overcrowded and congested. This is coping with Coronavirus Zimbabwe style.
On Day 5 of Zimbabwe lockdown, news had already filtered out that in the early hours of the morning police had raided Sakubva market in Mutare and confiscated three tons of fresh vegetables which were later set alight. Burning food when the country is in lockdown, people are desperate for food and over half the population is dependent on International Food Aid to survive, is very hard to understand.
Almost home from my early morning dash, two police details were standing in the middle of the road and indicated for me to stop and open my window, asking where I was going and why. The police woman who came to my window wasn’t wearing a mask or gloves and the obvious question that came to mind was: what if she’s got Coronavirus, isn’t she passing it on to every person she stops and questions? Isn’t this making a complete nonsense of lockdown, defeating the whole purpose of confining people to their homes to stop the spread of Covid-19? This is coping, or not, with Coronavirus, Zimbabwe style. God help us.
- For information on my books about Zimbabwe go to www.lulu.com/spotlight/
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