The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
AS the winter dark clouds gather, threatening to confirm sceptics’ predictions that Zimbabwe might be overwhelmed by a spike in Covid-19 infections because of the cold weather, a silver lining emerged in Bulawayo following the recovery of four out of five family members who had tested positive to the virus.
The family of five, which has the youngest case of the coronavirus in the country — a three-year-old — (identified by the Ministry of Health and Child Care as case #19) is counting their blessings as they were given an all clear by the Rapid Response Team (RRT) but unfortunately the mother, the first to test positive in the family is still Covid-19 positive.
However, the mother who was first taken away to an isolation centre in the city, has returned home to continue self-isolating. Sunday News visited the family yesterday and there was visible joy among the family members. Case #21, a daughter to case #16 was happy to express her joy.
“We were told we were negative on Sunday last week, that was after 41 days in quarantine at our home and with mum she is still going on and it’s her 48th day. The delay in our results came about as the laboratories (at Mpilo Hospital) had no reagents to carry out the tests, we had to just endure,” said case #21.
She said there was a lot of anxiety during the wait for the results as they were overdue.
“The anxiety of waiting was terrible, every car that was moving outside, we would run to check if it was the RRT guys that had come with our results, but all were just cars going to their destinations. The wait was painful,” she said her eyes welling up with tears.
She went on.
“When the results came, we were not as excited as we were supposed to be because not all of us tested negative, my mum was still positive. She had to be moved to the quarantine centre for some days, that was a hard blow on our side because we didn’t know what was going to happen next, if she was going to come back or not. Instead of celebrating, we were now in deep sorrow, we began to pray even more, we questioned ourselves on what it was that we had not done correctly to have her coming out still positive,” she added.
She said her three-year-old daughter was hardest hit during the testing times because she experienced excruciating pain during testing and was later experiencing nightmares.
“She would cry at night assuming they are coming to test her again and the day the results came she saw the team and ran away screaming as she was scared of enduring more pain,” she said.
Asked how she was feeling following the release of their results, case #21 said she was “still in the same situation”.
“As for me it’s like I am in still in the same situation, being negative but knowing that my mother is still positive. I understand the pain she is going through, I’m enduring the pain with her. It’s not an easy road, we have fear of what will happen to her, how long it will take for her to be cleared,” she said.
Case #21 said she understood though, their discorded results, that it was to do with the strength of one’s immune system and that with age it is more compromised than in the younger generation. Since results were revealed, she said nothing has changed as their routines were still the same. In an earlier interview, the family members said there were not taking any special medication.
“We still do what we had been doing, and mum had to be released from the quarantine centre because of certain circumstances and we are also at risk of reinfection too but we follow advice from health personnel so we still run away from getting it again. On our part, we still steam with various concoctions although to a lesser extent than when we first tested positive,” she said.
Case #21 said they were freed physically to reintegrate in with the community but still chained mentally.
“We are still locked in, we were freed to go out but we are all afraid to go out, we are afraid of the unknown maybe. We are scared of answering all sorts of questions that people may have when they see us roaming in the streets. My daughter even refused to go and buy bread at the shops, she has never gone against my commands but I understood her this time. I was equally scared to go out, I’m tired of having to explain myself and the pain we have endured as a family. With time we will go out I’m sure, but am I ready to go out and face the world? I don’t think so,” she said.
With the excitement of being “released”, she said, she went out to clean outside their house which also drew weird looks from neighbours.
“After being told we are clear, the next day I went to clean outside the yard. One of our neighbours really had to make sure it was me as she stared at me while I was cleaning, she must have been shocked to see me outside. That action made me more scared actually to go out more,” she said.
Case #21 said she was happy to be “clean” with her children as they await her mother’s recovery. Asked on the support she had received from well wishes, she said she was in awe.
“I would like to thank my community for their support as they were the first to hear our cry, we have been fed by people we know and some we do not. I discovered that we are all human beings, we had so many churches that came through for us.
“Companies have also reached out. Believe me, there is a lady from Gweru who called us every day for the 41 days just to pray with us over the phone. We would wait eagerly for her phone call each day and it kept us going spiritually,” she said.
She said various other people from all over the country and outside the country assisted the family during their difficult time.
“Saying thank you would not be enough to express what I am feeling. I am happy to say yes there were negative social media reports but when we were reported correctly in the mainstream Press, we got an overwhelming amount of assistance from far and wide and as a family we are thankful for that,” she said.
“It was not all about the food parcels but a sweet phone call to hear how we were doing brought smiles to our faces. People would make an effort to hear about our well-being and sourced supplies for us, it helped in the healing,” added case #21.
Birthdays are always happy events but this year the family had to celebrate two birthdays while in isolation and it was not fun and games for them. Case #21, however, said Covid-19 showed her the warmth of Zimbabweans near and far who contacted them, giving assistance emotionally and materially as the family made new friends. She also had advice for citizens and those escaping form quarantine centres.
“I am seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases in the media, people must follow advice we are being given, work it out with a positive mind that you can fight this disease. I don’t know why people are running away from quarantine centres, they must be sympathetic to the next person as they can infect them too. How then can we contain the virus when we have runaways who may be positive? Those that are loitering just stay indoors and adhere to the set rules. Have a valid reason to go out and we will eventually fight this virus as a nation,” she said.
Case #21 and her three children who all had tested positive are testimony to the fact that every cloud does have a silver lining.
By Friday, the country had recorded 160 Covid-19 positive cases, with 29 people having recovered from the infection and four having succumbed to the disease. Nine new cases recorded on Friday included nine people who came back home from Botswana (two) and South Africa (seven). Two cases were local transmissions, according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, which added that those who tested positive “were all in isolation”.