COVID-19, immunity myth …the folly plays on

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By Catherine Murombedzi 

MUFAKOSE HIGH DENSITY SUBURB in Harare never ceases to amaze; each sunrise to dusk, an episode to Zimbo life plays out!

What takes place in Mufakose mirrors Mabvuku, Glen View and other high density suburbs nationally. 

A colleague from my school years in the 1980s posted astonishing news on our class WhatsApp group.

Grace, her real first name, went to a big local supermarket in the area to replenish her food stocks. 

Seated by the tree shade was a senior citizen carrying out brisk business, hustling, anything goes! 

Masks for hire changed hands for only $2 Bond notes. 

People queued, waiting for the users to be back from the shop, off one face, handover to the owner, dirty $2 note changes hands and onto the next face, masks traded from the hands onto the faces. 

Brisk business indeed, oblivious of the dangers! 

Grace could not help but talk to one of the clients who waited for his turn. 

She was cut down to size immediately; the user only wanted to dash into the shop, buy and return the now so important ‘protector and visa’ into the shop; he was not interested in more coronavirus education, he knew it all.

“I just need to buy a few items, coronavirus or no corona, I am not worried, even the rich die from it, I need to get cooking oil and bread thats all,” said the youth.

My friend gave up after people in the queue joined in and questioned her motive.

“Asi muri mudhikaz? (Are you a cop?).”
In Harare city centre, mask vendors have mushroomed too, with physical distancing now a thing of the past.
Cashing in on COVID-19, caution has been thrown to the winds. 

‘Totomeka’ literally translated, ‘We will cash in’, leaves one wondering whether what lies between the ears is a brain or just an empty skull.

What then does a fully grown person fail to understand on the dangers of the pandemic, boggles the mind! 

On asking what the virus entails, if it were an examination, one scores an A+. 

Fair and fine, one understands all the risks and dangers; what then happens when one is required to observe the A,B,C to beat the pandemic. 

It is not surprising to find comic skits about COVID-19 circulating on social media; this is baffling, this is not a joking matter. 

It is a life and death issue.

Fuel attendants at service stations are blind to the frontline risk they too trade in. 

This false sense of safety that the frontline is the medical field is baffling. 

“Do not fool yourself dear, people are just being stubborn or even sarcastic about the COVID-19 story. So this evening when I was driving from work, I stopped by the Total garage along Lomagundi Road. The attendant approached my car, leaned over asking how much petrol he should serve. Alas, he had the mask around his neck, his hands were visibly dirty and he generally looked scruffy. I politely asked him to wear his mask and sanitise his hands. He took offense and exclaimed that this mask was a nuisance. It makes him hot, he said, and he thinks it unnecessary. He even retorted the sanitiser was a waste of time as he will in any case touch my car to open the tank. No matter how much I tried to explain, he counter argued. I simply drove off to the next garage in disbelief,” said a woman on our school group.

Rewind, early March 2020, blacks, yes blacks in Africa had a false sense of immunity. 

With news of the Chinese dying in Wuhan, next were the Italians, the Spanish; and still a false sense of immunity continued to play out in African minds; statistics showing no blacks succumbing to the novel virus gave this unfounded sense of; ‘the virus does not attack blacks’. 

By nature of geographic location, there are fewer blacks resident in the areas where the virus originated and first hit. 

So statistics of dead due to COVID-19, reported in early 2020, had few blacks succumbing to the novel virus. 

Reading in between the lines and taken out of context, we, the blacks were suddenly immune to COVID-19 because we had got the BCG jab at birth. 

If only we could, as blacks, read through all written material without fishing out the little content required to justify the preferred stance would help us in a big way. One once quipped: “Want to hide anything from our race, write it down, we do not like reading. 

Another immunity rant soon went viral: “The virus does not survive temperatures above 27°Celsius, hence no deaths were being recorded in Africa then. 

We are okay; it’s not going to infect us here in Africa; its too hot; we are safe; what more with BCG to the defence, we are most ‘bhoo’ okay,” was the bar talk, even from sober minded.

What raised my ire were the so-called academics, the schooled brains. 

WhatsApp chats trended such folly and with any message repeated over and over again, it started to gain ground. 

The high temperature umbrella effect too, gave a false sense of comfort to Africa, the blacks at most. 

The 5G theory, the superpower wars, the race to rule the world, fly by night theories, all culminated in taking COVID-19 for granted; the worst pandemic since the Spanish influenza of 1918 which killed over 50 million people was being taken for granted. 

That pandemic was set to wipe the world if not treated with the urgency it deserved: The World Health (WHO) declared it a global emergency.
As the world is a global village, it did not take long for the virus to hit the UK, Zimbabwean kith and kin are resident in the Queen’s land in large numbers, where Luton is corruptly known as Harare and Birmingham as Bulawayo, by virtue of thousands of Zimbos resident there. 

The US, another home where Zimbabweans are domicile in droves, was next to mourn. Despite this, Africa continued with business-as-usual, there is no hurry in Africa.

In no time, our brothers and sisters became statistics in the UK and the US. 

We were mourning; one death of our own was everyone’s bereavement and one too many. We suddenly woke up to the tragedy that the pandemic was real. We mourned the death of our kith on social media daily, we lost a citizen, it hurts.

On March 24, His Excellence E.D. Mnangagwa announced a lockdown to halt the further spread of the virus after two deaths and more than 16 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The ghettos remain a hive of activity on the streets. Social soccer continues to raise dust as usual, with the absence of kombis being the only marked difference.
The folly still plays out today in locals believing the easing of the lockdown by the President entails the virus’ easing too. 

People playing cat-and-mouse with the law enforcement agents go out with reckless abandon. 

They lie at the police manned-roadblocks to meet for a drink with friends. However, they forget one aspect, the virus has not eased and knows no colour nor temperature zone.

Unnecessary travel is rife, with one boasting: “I fooled the cops, I lied and made my way into town.” 

To do what? 

What part of essential service, what business required the folly to get into town? 

With the formal sector resuming work under strict observation of guidelines, the virus has no excuse not to cause havoc.

A vendor, busy at his usual informal point at a shopping centre, cashes on the much needed masks which are now mandatory when outdoors. 

“Ten bond, 15 ecochinyi, One US for three vachada kunzvenga chirwere aripano mamask ekwabhobho, aripano…pane evasina mbongo futi, Five Bond ejira rekuwacha ugowacha, batai muone momz, (10 bond, 15 EcoCash, US$1 for three masks on sale to all who intend to evade the virus. We also have home made masks, you can wash and wash, only 5 bond notes, you can feal the quality mother if you want.),” shouts the guy selling a variety of masks at the entrance of a supermarket in Greencroft, Harare.

A clip circulating on social media shows a woman washing used masks for resale; your guess of the source of the masks is as good as mine.

For now, with no cure and vaccine, unnecessary travel will make Zimbabwe one massive graveyard.

Sadly, no big send offs will mark the departures. 

Do not endanger your loved ones after evading the cops, you are not set to evade COVID-19.

Forewarned is forearmed!

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