9 April 2020 (Day 11 of lockdown)
Anxiety about the Easter period is setting in. I am not one to travel over holidays unless I really do not have a choice; but there are a few staples—a church service here or two. But this Easter would be different—all my church sermons have been uploaded. One can download or watch directly online. It really feels very different, that reassuring sight of another in a service; that coming together with individuals that share some values and beliefs with you—does something to one’s soul. This Easter is different across the globe. For the first time, people will have to reflect on the meaning of Easter and or the Passover from their houses. Quite a different holiday. One thing was mentioned in one of the social platforms that I am in that I had taken for granted: a lady said in one group that for the first time in a very long time, there may actually be no road traffic accidents during this holiday. With limited traffic and limited movements indeed this could be one of those holidays that fewer accidents if not none at all.
10 April 2020 Good Friday – 13 April 2020 Easter Monday (Days 12-15 of Lockdown)
I am not sure how to even begin to write about this period. I had sermons and a multitude of tasks I needed to complete, but I could feel such heaviness—some would describe it as mild depression, despair—a feeling of hopelessness of sorts. This pandemic seems to be turning lives upside down: the deaths, the loss of jobs, the changes in school systems and calendars. Is there an end in sight? I think one question that I’ve asked myself over and over again is, does recovering from COVID-19 infer some type of immunity? So far, the publications and papers I have come across do not seem to imply any. I suppose when then I look at it carefully, that is the real source of my despair. There is no vaccine, no cure—even if we manage this first phase, they say vaccines are at best 18 months away—so, what if it returns again before 18 months? What would be different? After all, the pandemic may have yet to peak here in Zimbabwe.
18–19 April 2020 (Day 20–21 of Lockdown)
Itching ears—we were so eager on any and every platform to hear what the next steps are. People are posting clips implying the lockdown has been lifted. As such, people are commended for returning to work in an organized manner.
Sunday—a video is circulating that the lockdown has been lifted; not sure if this is official or a rumor. In one of my all-women platforms, a message was posted that the country has a poll on whether to lift the lockdown or not; yes—a poll. How appropriate for a public health emergency of such magnitude. A disease that by now has claimed more than 120,000 lives globally and infected two million—and we are still counting—we are deciding on this policy move using a poll. Can’t even believe it myself as I write this—just when I actually thought for some reason the initial lockdown had been a decisive and necessary move, now it appears that we want to reverse the gains of all that using a poll. The number of cases is increasing daily… With COVID-19, it is especially scary, especially when you read of super-spreaders and you read of “Patient 15,” a health worker who seems to be “out and about”—not in a health facility and not in self-isolation. I hope I live to see the other side of this pandemic—the side when things return to a new normal and our fear of a handshake and closeness becomes a part of our foggy distant memory. I don’t think it will happen soon but amidst all this uncertainty I will continue to hope— and stay indoors and hope to be alive and get to the other side.
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Nomathemba Sibanda is a research fellow at the National University of Science and Technology. She is currently in the process of applying to Ph.D. programs in public health and environmental science. She is based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
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The Teach311 + COVID-19 Collective began in 2011 as a joint project of the Forum for the History of Science in Asia and the Society for the History of Technology Asia Network and is currently expanded in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science(Artifacts, Action, Knowledge) and Nanyang Technological University-Singapore.