EXACTLY two years and a day ago, the country recorded its first Covid-19 positive case. Then 38, Mr Graham Simmonds of Victoria Falls, tested positive on his return from a business trip in UK. Three days later, Zororo Makamba, then 30, became the first Covid-19 fatality in the country.
By that time, Asia, Europe and America were already under hard lockdown. Domestic and international flights were banned. People were confined to their homes and only those providing essential services were allowed out. Everyone else went out only when going to a health centre, a pharmacy or to a supermarket to buy food. Schools were closed.
On March 26, President Mnangagwa — and it only had to be him — announced the country’s first lockdown that was to be 21 days long.
He had ordered schools to close two days earlier. We had to remain indoors, like other people elsewhere on the globe, observe hand and respiratory hygiene. If we went out, we had to have our masks firmly on and keep that one to two-metre distance from strangers.
“While our cases are low, this need not induce complacency on us,” the President said in his history-making televised speech.
“Covid-19 is now upon us. It can spread in leaps and bounds in so short a time. There is need to take decisive measures now against the pandemic way ahead of likely danger.
I have already indicated that some of the measures will be drastic and are sure to upset daily routines of our lives as we have lived it until now but they have to be taken now.”
It will be an extreme understatement for us to say we were all confused and shaken as the virulent respiratory infection showed itself among us. We felt so vulnerable and thought this was Armageddon in our lifetime.
Everyone did not want to cough in public. You had to be brave to do so. If you did, everyone would stare at you, diagnose you and slowly walk away from you. Since all first cases were imported, we did not want anyone returning home from South Africa, the epicentre of the infection on the continent then and now. We reported those who returned home before completing their quarantine times at border posts.
We thought every positive case was to lead to death within a week or two. Stigma ruled. We remember the deserted streets, the long queues at supermarkets and the deathly silence all around.
Suddenly everyone was all over the forest hunting for zumbami, guava and eucalyptus. Markets ran out of garlic, ginger, lemon and red onion.
Demand for green bar, hand sanitiser and face masks shot up. Enterprising citizens saw Covid-19 as a business opportunities, not necessarily a disaster so they started sewing face masks and making sanitisers and selling them.
Two years and a day on, we have had 244 452 confirmed cases, 234 270 recoveries and 5 426 deaths. We are sad that we have lost so many of our people over the past 24 months of the pandemic.
However, we are proud of the health staff who served the people despite the risk of contracting the disease. We, too, are proud of those who have survived the infection. We are prouder of those who were among the first to be infected and survived —
Messrs Simmonds, Saul Sakudya of Ruwa and many others. They went through hell on earth indeed — the pain, the rejection, the confusion and the emotional trauma of thinking they will stop breathing in the next second.
Despite the sickness and the fatalities, we are happy that collectively our people have fought a good fight against the infection. Now the country is opening up, people are freer to live their lives but we are called to recognise that the coronavirus, as all viruses do, attacks in waves.
A new wave is deadly but after a few weeks or months it loses the sting. We have had four waves, each new one deadlier than its predecessor.
As we approach winter and a possibility of a fifth wave, we must all observe Covid-19 protocols as outlined by the Government. But getting vaccinated against the disease is a surer way to fight it. By Saturday, 4,4 million people had received their first dose against Covid-19 while 3,4 million had received both. About 177 000 had got their third.
It is interesting that as we mark two years and a day into the pandemic, the Government begins a national vaccination blitz today.
As we have always indicated, we implore our people to get vaccinated. Those who have had both doses are urged to get their third.
But the protocols that have saved our lives over the past two years — regular handwashing with soap or sanitiser, avoiding crowds, masking up and watching our health more carefully — must continue.