By Luyanda Gwina
After the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared nosa coronavirus also known as COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020, an emergency operation centre was activated in every country immediately.
On 15 March, the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, declared a national state of disaster and announced measures and protocols to follow, such as immediate travel restrictions and the closure of schools from 18 March. On 17 March, the National Coronavirus Command Council was established, “to lead the nation’s plan to contain the spread and mitigate the negative impact of the coronavirus”. On 23 March, a national lockdown was announced, starting on 26 March 2020. On 21 April, a 500 billion rand stimulus was announced in response to the pandemic.
Our world, as we know it, was turned upside down to what was to be known as Lockdown – a new normal. These measures were taken by the government caused by what the World Health Organisation has declared as a pandemic disease. The whole of South Africa came to a standstill except for essential and critical services. Schools, factories, shops, streets were deserted and the whole of Durban and the whole of South Africa was turned into ghost towns overnight. Security forces, police and soldiers were everywhere.
The COVID-19 experience is like no one has had so far – an invisible war: no soldiers, no tanks, no bullets, but people are dying in huge numbers.
When MaCele, my grandmother, used to talk about the Spanish Flu of 1918 (influenza) she almost cried. When she narrated the harrowing stories and experiences about influenza, it sounded like such things will never happen in our life time because of advances in medicine and technology. How mistaken I was – never say never.
The Covid-19 (Ukhuvethe, as it is now called in isiNguni) is fast going the direction of Spanish Flu.
The South African government sprang into action early to bring about public awareness about the epidemic. The Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, made no bones about it – every family in South Africa will get affected with members either falling sick and recovering or dying. Certain groups are said to be comorbidity: the elderly and people who live with chronic diseases will be affected the worst. Dr Mkhize’s statements sounded far-fetched, not real.
Over time, people started dying in numbers from Covid-19 as we saw pictures and videos on television and worse in social media of people dying in countries such as China, Italy, Spain, France and England. There is no escaping it here in South Africa. As we were warned earlier, figures have started climbing in South Africa.
What is this deadly virus? Space does not allow me to explain. My personal view is that it was manufactured and things did not go according to plan and the genie is out of the bottle and no one is able to take it back.
The rest is disaster of unimaginable proportions.
In order to keep myself and those close to me educated I try to share information and hold discussions as much as possible. There is also a lot of fake news and misinformation about the disease. In order to keep sane and to continue living with less stress, I have decided to expect anything to happen with this mutating virus – today it is killing the elderly in Italy and another day it is killing children in the USA.
In a way, I am going back to the coping skills I learnt on my arrival in Nigeria in 1976. At first, adjusting to the Nigerian environment was not easy: the heat, the bribery and mefirst culture, the food. A fellow student from Tanzania gently said, “expect anything, anything from this environment.” That is how I began to accept and started living in what was a strange environment!