The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
Nothabo Moyo knows what she needs before she leaves her residence.
Usually, any well-groomed lady would check if all her accessories were perfectly secure in her bag. She would check whether that eye liner is in easy reach, or the make-up kit was sitting correctly and comfortably in the right compartment.
But life over the past two months or so in the Chinese capital Beijing has made these things secondary considerations for a Masters in Accounting student. A mask, hand sanitiser and latex gloves are her armour against COVID-19, formerly called the 2019 novel coronavirus, a raging virus that has so far taken over 2 000 lives and has the whole world on tenterhooks.
“It is a very scary idea to even think about contracting such a virus in a foreign land. Therefore, most of us take a lot of measures to make sure we do not become victims. The measures are wearing a mask and latex gloves at all times when going outside, keeping a hand sanitizer in your pocket, cooking food thoroughly and always washing your hands when you are coming from outside” she told Sunday Life.
Having known the joy of free movement all her life, Moyo is now faced with life in a vast open-air prison, as authorities battle to contain the spread of a disease that has health departments and governments across the globe on edge.
“Since the outbreak of coronavirus became serious, the school had a lockdown and no one is allowed to enter or exit. So, if you are on campus you are limited to campus supermarkets and the dormitory. If you happen to live off campus you are only permitted to leave the house for only three days in a week to go and find food.
At this point a lot of people are very sceptical about visiting each other, even if you are friends. Therefore, you try and limit your contact to people that you live with,” she said.
Last week leading economic forecaster, Oxford Business — reported that the coronavirus could cost the global economy more than US$1 trillion in lost output if it turns into a pandemic.
On a smaller but equally critical scale, Zimbabweans who are used to running their own business for personal sustenance while they are far away from home, the virus has hit their pockets in the most painful way.
“Being quarantined is not such a pleasant thing. You cannot move around as you wish. Some people run businesses as well so being quarantined means your business cannot operate normally. Some businesses or factories are closed, they are not operating which also causes slow or no business at all, especially for businesspeople who buy from China to resell back to their countries. It is quite a difficult task to cope without your family around,” she said.
According to Victoria Ncube, an Applied Economics Master’s student in Zhenjiang — the effect on businesses run by students has been devastating, considering that parents were tightening belts back home.
“Most people here have part time jobs or small businesses to sustain themselves but all of that has now been on pause since the disease started. There’s nothing you can send, nothing you can receive so that means the income is reduced. Those that teach English part time or full time now have no income, they have to sit at home until schools open or until anything else happens. Some companies have resumed business which is great but most companies are still shut down and that has a massive impact on the lifestyles that we lead, lifestyles that have been taken away from us,” she said.
For Zimbabwean students, the virus hit at the worst possible time. At the onset of the Chinese New Year holidays, many expected to relax for a short period of time in their adopted country, as many felt the holiday was too short to make the pilgrimage back home.
“Personally, I wish I was home. When the virus spread it was our winter vacation and normally that vacation does not last long. It’s usually three to four weeks so most people prefer not to go home and wait for the summer vacation instead.
“It’s usually a happy time. The mood just quickly became sombre when we couldn’t do anything to celebrate. It’s usually family time in China and so you might just be lucky and be with a Chinese family but all that couldn’t happen anymore. We had to tone things down and watch things unfold on our screens all of which was mind blowing really,” said Ncube.
With no close contact with friends, many have turned to the internet for companionship.
“It feels lonely at the moment. The only solution right now is to stay online. You have to talk to family and friends more often than you would so that you feel that the void is being filled. It’s one thing to be studying overseas with friends and it’s another when you’re far away and you can’t even access to those friends,” she said.