Reflection of a young man’s experience with Covid-19

By Liza Mfana

Since the Covid-19 (aka Corona virus) hit our shores it’s been very interesting times for me. It’s taught me a lot about our country and its citizens.

Let’s take a look on some of the concerns that require our attention below, as I unpack multiple issues through my own experiences.

 “Yourself, you like drama my man, this thing is not necessary.”;
“You have money to waste on these things, Liza? This disease is for rich people.”

These are some of the statements I have received in the streets for draping my face in a mask and burying my hands in gloves, in addition to the looks of disbelief and occasional chuckles as I walk past. People are convinced that we don’t need protection from Covid-19, and this indicates the lack of understanding among our people – poor people in particular.

It also points to the fundamental unpreparedness of the Republic to manage and deal with a national crisis, let alone a health one. It is an extremely worrying reality that we find ourselves in and it requires urgent intervention from all parties.

In addition to this unfortunate lack of readiness, my experiences have exposed that I also lacked the necessary knowledge to properly manage my protective gear. Wearing a mask and gloves has become such a daunting task. It has made the execution of basic daily tasks, extremely difficult to achieve. Things like eating a packet of snacks – biscuits, chips, sweets, etc.; and even finger-foods have become much more complex.

“Do I take off the gloves? Take the mask off? Do I wait to get home before eating anything? A range of questions that have become the preamble of snacking on anything.”

In my research around this, the views have been contradictory, with some in favour and others against the use of Protective Personal Equipment (PPE). Those for it – particularly the World Health Organization – prescribed the following guidelines for safe use of PPE:

  • Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between the mask and your face.
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water.
  • To remove the mask; remove from behind (do not touch the front of the mask); discard immediately in a closed bin. Clean hands with alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water.

The government, in attempts to curb the spread of the virus in the country has since implemented a 21-day lockdown of the country. The lockdown regulations have not made things any easier on citizens’ need to adjust to the crisis. With multiple bans being imposed on the exercise of certain rights, the pandemic has shown us just how vulnerable we are as people. The government of the country has not done enough to ensure that this battle is collectively waged. Simply deploying state machinery – SANDF and SAPS – is not enough.

The Health department must be at the forefront of community based dissemination of PPE and information about Covid-19, South Africans are under informed. The gear must come with training on its use. The government must also erect mobile testing points in communities, to ensure the testing, identification and treatment process is accelerated.

The infection rate is gradually declining, but I don’t think that’s cause to celebrate. My skepticism is based on the answer to the following question: is this due to less infections or less tests? The reality, I believe, is represented by the latter.

We have a long way to go!

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