Saturday, 9 May 2020


“THE picture was terrible. From the day our mother was confirmed positive of Covid-19 and subsequently four more of us, all we could picture was the whole family on ventilators and battling for life before we all die.”

These were the sentiments of one member of a Bulawayo family who tested positive to Covid-19.

The family is made up of five patients, Case #16, #19, #20, #21 and #22. It is from the family that one of its members came under the spotlight for allegedly moving around the city while supposed to be on self-quarantine after testing positive.

They are part of the 12 Covid-19 (coronavirus) positive cases in the city. Government on Friday said the country had 35 confirmed cases, 14 from Harare, five from Mashonaland East, three from Mashonaland West and one from Matabeleland North. Nine patients have so far recovered while four succumbed to the virus. 

The Sunday News crew, fully dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE) on Friday visited the family at their home to get a first hand feel of how it has been living through in the trying times. A social distance of more than one-and-a-half metres was maintained.

The family is so sceptical about visitors and before granting the news crew an interview, a family member asked the reporters detailed information about themselves, jotting down particulars including the number plates of the car being used by the news crew.

“We have received calls from some people insulting us and visits from all sort of people, some claiming to be journalists,” the mother, who is according to Ministry of Health and Child Care records is Case #16 said.

The beginning
“We are cases #16, 19, 20, 21 and 22. Mum was the first one to get tested, the feeling was very terrible. The mentality that we had over coronavirus was death. The moment we were told she was positive, the next we were thinking was, she’s dead, generally. Being told that we were going to be tested because we are her contacts, because she got the virus from a patient at a local hospital where she works, was terrifying too. From that time until we got to know she was positive we already were not keeping any social distancing as a family; we would sleep on the same bed in the same rooms and chances were very high that we would also be positive. Meaning the chances were also high that we were thinking that we were also going to die. It was fearful. We were calling every family member telling them that we were going to die,” narrated Case #19. 

Social Media
“Things worsened because of reports that were coming from the social media. Whatever was being said was not true and it was about me in particular. It was said I was found outside getting some ‘fresh air’, honestly who goes out looking for fresh air while carrying two plastic bags of groceries? But I had actually been given authority by the (Covid-19 Provincial) Rapid Response Team. After they tested mum, we told them we needed to go and buy food and I was told I could go. I never spoke to people. But reports came out that I was carelessly spreading the virus. It was a painful moment because I had been tested and was awaiting my own results and the media started saying all sorts of things,” said another family member.

Threats and insults
“There are five of us in the family, the youngest whom I understand is the youngest case in Zimbabwe is three years old, the other one is 10 and the other is 15, they are all my children. We are getting a lot of phone calls, terrible ones, we have people insulting us with unprintable words accusing us of spreading the virus. We also have the good side of the coin though where we have the community and relatives around us to give us strength and hope, they phone us,” the mother, who is the head of the family said.

Life in isolation
“We are 23 days in isolation now. It has not been easy, whenever you want something you have to call someone to get it for you, that person also has his or her own schedule too, remember. We now have a lifestyle of waking up in the morning, drinking concoctions, steaming ourselves thrice a day. We have no medication that we take, we were told the health officials only treat symptoms but the symptoms come and go so we don’t know if it’s now psychological that we feel these symptoms or they are not real. Words will say we are now beggars. Before the virus we would buy our own food, now we ask people for food. We wash our hands as if we have never washed them before, social distancing, the young ones want to go and play with their friends but they cannot,” she said.

The first part of the family’s re-testing was done on Wednesday last week and they are waiting for results.

High and low moments
“What keeps us going is hope, we will do a lot of things we had stopped doing. We hear 80 percent survive this virus and we tell ourselves we are a part of that number. When we survive, we want to go out there and see the world again. When you watch television then that is another side, we see all these people who have died from Covid-19, you really feel low. Like when we were tested again, we were then asking ourselves what will happen next if some results come back positive, will people be taken away from here (to be quarantined in hospital). It’s a scary thought. We have these fears.

“You find many people are scared to come near us, many run away after delivering food parcels by the gate. They would then call us later after they have gone that they left something at the gate. Very few people actually talk to us and see us through the gate. I am afraid of the stigma that we will have after this episode, will people accept us? My daughter is always asking if we would be able to shop with everyone normally again. Will people know that we are the family that was positive? Worse still our home address and telephone number were released in the media so it’s a tough one because some people already know who my children are. When they go back to school how will the teachers react and other pupils because everyone now knows us. Some of my college mates even assumed when we closed schools, I had the virus already! While the virus is something I got after we had closed schools already,” said another family member.

“We do need more Jik that we are told to use to disinfect the house with because it has run out and we need to disinfect the house every day. Foodwise we are lacking, we need more including relish and vegetables. We also need sanitary wear too and other toiletries for feminine hygiene. It’s so hard to ask for people for meat because the assumption will be we are being choosy, but that is a reality, we were eating meat when all this started. Our mother had been working hard all these years providing these things but now she cannot.”

Moving forward
“I doubt it will be the same when I go back to college and when mum goes back to work. I am praying that when I resume studies it would have all calmed down but I can foresee it coming. Imagine people at the hospital pointing fingers at mum saying she is the one who had coronavirus.

If she dare coughs people may say the virus did not clear up. Whatever we may complain about (healthwise) after this, will be linked to the virus. I wish the Government could assist more, we are five people affected in one household, the community cannot handle us alone, they have their own struggles as the economy is down and looking for that extra to give another person is difficult to be honest, but they are doing their best to assist with what they also have. The community is doing so well to help our family.

“Mom got this virus while at work, doing national duty, helping to save lives, the least we can get is some form of assistance from Government. Now she is neglected, no one cares about her emotions at the moment yet she had been in the frontline helping ill patients. It feels like she did this deliberately but no. Emotionally she is troubled and the least they can do is provide a counselor to come and talk to the family. We cannot be counseled on social media honestly,” said one of the daughters.

Case #16 tragedy
“I am hurt, I was infected while I was at work. We do need assistance with supplies for the family. I have worked at that hospital from October 1993 until the time I was infected. I once called asking for help and I was not really welcomed, I was told to wait a little up to now. The employer sent me numbers of counselors and they said I must look for them and they come and counsel me. I do not have that kind of time and energy, I am in distress. We do have counselors at work, could they not send one for my family? I feel so bad when I look at these children before me, they are sick because of me. I only have one child, Case #19 and my three grandchildren. I’m not sure of what is the way forward is. These children need to be looked after, my daughter needs to finish her college studies so I must go and work. I have no one to assist me, I need to also pay rentals for this house too and feed the family,” she pleaded. Sunday News


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