COVID-19: An individual responsibility

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By Gracious Mugovera 

THERE is a picture which circulated on different social media platforms showing an Italian man as the only person attending his mother’s funeral.

This was a surprise to many, especially to those from African societies.

In Africa, it is custom for relatives and neighbours to join in bereavement.

But the picture of the Italian man is not showing a person who does not have family, friends or relatives; it is highlighting the sad reality in which the rest of the world finds itself in. 

Without doubt, the global outbreak of COVID-19 has mutilated socio-cultural systems. 

It is sad that, despite putting stringent measures to quarantine about 60 million people, Italy has recorded more deaths of victims of COVID-19.

In spite of the numbers of health practitioners around the world offering assistance, recent statistics show that the death toll continues.

Across the world, families have not been able to give their loved ones, succumbing to the virus, befitting send-offs.

The single most important fact is that COVID -19 is real and has destroyed lives.

However, despite that glaring fact, locally, many continue to treat the whole issue lightly.

Whether it is a question of stubbornness or ignorance, one shudders at the thought of what would happen in the event that the virus gets out of control in this country.

Basic things, such as social distancing, are not being observed.

We continue to adhere to our everyday customs, traditions and practices which, at this moment, put us in danger. People continue to conduct funeral wakes characterised by gatherings of many people.

Governments, however, are putting measures to curb the spread of the disease to show that we are all in this together. 

To minimise the spread of the disease, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has also put additional measures to be taken to mitigate the COVID -19 pandemic.

Some of the measures are as follows :

λ Government will close all borders to human traffic excluding returning residents.

λ Ban entertainment and  recreational activities. Government has put a blanket  ban  gatherings  in nightclubs, bars, beer halls, movie houses, swimming pools, gymnasiums and sporting activities.

λ All public gatherings should not exceed 50 persons. These include religious fellowships, weddings, conferences, workshop and funerals.

λ Hospital visits have been reduced to one visit per day, involving one relative per patient.

There is no doubt that  some of these measures as well as precautions for safety against COVID-19 go against certain traditions but they have been put in place for the greater good.

One of the common traditions among Africans, Zimbabweans in particular, is the need to greet each other through shaking of hands.

Yes! It is regarded as a sign of respect, love and a way to acknowledge the importance of the other.

To some, handshaking is also a way of feeling the mood, feelings and health of a person. In ceremonies that include funerals, weddings, graduations and  negotiations, handshaking is a common practice but for now, lets do away with it. 

It is also believed that for an event or ceremony to be called a success, it is determined by the number of people who grace the same. 

The spread of COVID-19 from China to the rest of the world clearly shows it was as a result of interaction of people.

It, therefore, remains the mandate of each individual to continue exercising extreme caution.

The Italian man, alone at his mother’s funeral, is not an anomaly but a sign of these horrible times which disregard valued customs and traditions.

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