OPINION: Silver Lining Behind COVID-19
Tendai Kamhungira writing for Daily News opined that there is a silver lining behind the pandemic that has killed over 200 thousand people worldwide because some health facilities that were neglected got a facelift in order for them to cater for COVID-19 patients. Kamhungira also opined how the virus has affected people and changed their way of life:
“We will open when real life is no longer a movie,” reads a poster outside a movie house, forced to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has so far claimed over 150 000 lives globally.Like an apocalyptic horror movie, the virus has devoured people across the world at an alarming rate.
Across China, Italy, Spain, United States and the United Kingdom, the disease has ravaged citizens, leaving tears on the cheeks of many. Every day, hundreds are going down, including medical staff and even the young.Just as it swept across the globe, Zimbabwe has not been spared either.
With four deaths and 28 confirmed cases, Zimbabwe is racing against time to ensure the scourge does not continue killing more people.However, behind the loss of lives in Zimbabwe, the disease has changed the people’s way of life, but has also come with a silver-lining.Bleeding from a dilapidated health sector, the country has been battling to make ends meet amid a serious economic meltdown.
Most of the country’s health institutions have been in bad shape, with no running water, medicines and proper facilities, which has forced government to make some improvements in the wake of the pandemic.Observers told the Daily News on Sunday that while a dark cloud hung above Zimbabwe due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was also a positive side to it.As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Certainly we are going to see donors, citizens and governments contributing towards the rehabilitation of our hospitals. We are also going to see an improvement in the conditions of service for health workers in the short term.“The major challenge, however, will be on the sustainability of the initiatives beyond Covid-19. The post Covid-19 period will require continuous maintenance of the hospitals, which may prove difficult in the long run,” Namibia-based analyst Admire Mare said.
Following the outbreak of the disease, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a 21-day lockdown, which only allowed essential service providers to leave their homes, while the rest of the population was ordered to stay at home in a bid to curb the spread of the disease. The lockdown was extended by a further 14 days on April 19 and now ends on May 3.With a record history of poor health facilities and lack of medical equipment, which saw doctors going on a prolonged strike last year, Zimbabwe was caught between a rock and a hard place.However, due to the novel coronavirus, a number of these institutions like the Wilkins Hospital in Harare, Mutare General Hospital and other private institutions in Borrowdale, Mt Pleasant and Belvedere in Harare, were renovated, while new equipment was brought in.Another analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said the coronavirus had brought with it a silver lining, which will see more health facilities being developed.“Covid-19 has taught us key principles and values — that we are all equal and we require just the basics — water, food, shelter, and health to live. Its non-discriminatory nature has also seen politicians rethinking as they are targets of the disease just like any of us.“It has taught us humanity, empathy and compassion. It taught us that we are interconnected. It taught us we all need good health hence for the first time in decades our government is leaving tomfoolery aside and focusing on developing and improving health facilities,” he said.Not only has the government improved some of the country’s health institutions. Institutions of higher learning have also begun to come up with new ideas to help the situation. For example the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) began developing ventilators, which are much-needed in the fight against the virus.The coronavirus situation has certainly brought into “sharp focus the need for Zimbabwe and other African countries to develop their health systems”, opines Rashweat Mukundu.“In the past we had instances where the rich and famous and the politically-connected and powerful would simply skip the border to China, to Europe, to South Africa, for health services. But now everyone is locked down in Zimbabwe and that luxury of travelling outside the country to access health services is no longer available.“So the silver lining is certainly that our leaders, government, private sector and other sectors are looking at how health services can be improved for the betterment of everyone and for the benefit of everyone. What is now needed is a thorough review of the status of our health facilities and services to look at what improvements need to be done. Do we need new hospitals, do we need additional health workers and what skills and equipment is needed to ensure that we pull back the health sector from the abyss that it had sunk,” Mukundu said.While the disease has helped in the improvement of the country’s hospitals, it has also significantly changed people’s lives.
Being largely a conservative society, Zimbabwe had maintained certain intricate societal norms and values, which have all been thrown out of the window due to the coronavirus pandemic.The virus has affected the people’s social and traditional life, their economic status, leaving them penned in their homes, like domestic animals.The virus, which is transmitted through droplets from coughing, sneezing or laughing, is also spread through handshakes.
A handshake in normal Zimbabwean society is a sign of welcoming somebody, which has been restricted due to the disease.
Besides handshakes, those that would have died of the disease are immediately buried under government experts’ supervision, with only 50 mourners allowed to attend.Generally, Zimbabweans believe in the concept of extended families, where funerals are everybody’s responsibility and people have to gather to pay their condolences. However, due to travel and gathering restrictions, some family members are no longer able to travel to funerals.The virus has also curtailed unnecessary movement, thereby barring relatives from visiting one another.
This has also been made worse by a directive that only one person will be allowed to visit an ill relative in hospital per day.
This means it might be the ill person’s mother or wife or husband or child, who can only be allowed to visit per day.In Zimbabwe’s tradition, people believe in sharing burdens, which is also manifested through assisting and visiting ill relatives.
However, due to the virus, this has all been thrown down the drain.