I would like to categorically and personally confirm that we are certainly in a mess over the coronavirus (Covid-19), which is threatening to be a pandemic if it hits Zimbabwe.
I have been feeling unwell since the weekend. I had a fever and sore throat. I was prescribed antibiotics, but there was not much improvement. My condition deteriorated on Tuesday and after a visit to a specialist physician, I was referred to Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital.
I drove myself all the way to the hospitals, with tears running down my cheeks and playing out the worst-case scenario in my mind, after all the coronavirus has killed thousands in highly developed countries.
The coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, in December, has killed nearly 9 000 people and infected close to 220 000 as at mid-morning yesterday. It has spread to at least 176 countries. More than 5 700 deaths have been reported outside of mainland China, including more than 155 in the United States.
So you can just imagine the psychological and emotional trauma of being a suspected Covid-19 infected person in a country with a collapsed healthcare system.
When I arrived at Wilkins, what I can tell you is that absolutely no one can get into the premises. They stop you metres away. You have to show proof of why you are there. I can say it has been definitely “secured”.
After showing my referral letter, I was asked to use another gate to enter the premises, which I did. I was shown where to park and I was then directed to the tent.
I nervously walked up to the tent and saw two nurses in full protective gear. There was also a young Chinese woman in the tent. As I approached the tent, I was swiftly shooed away and told to wait in my car till they were done with the Chinese woman. I complied.
An hour later, the young lady got up, carting her suitcase and handbag in tow. I was asked to sit and then started the registration and screening process.
But firstly, the basic hygiene and facilities at the screening point is beyond deplorable, it is heart-breaking to say the least.
The staff is friendly, but one cannot get past the deplorable facilities. You get the feeling that you could actually get infected just sitting there.
After supplying my name and address, I was asked several questions about why I was there and how I was feeling. I narrated to the nurse my symptoms over the last few days and how it culminated in my referral to Wilkins.
After jotting down notes, she went to get the thermometer. I inhaled as she administered the thermometer, it beeped after some seconds. The reading was 36 degrees Celsius. She repeated this then said “I will be back”. She walked across to a group of nurses and doctors. After a few minutes, she returned and said: “You are free to go, my sister. Your temperature is ok and we do not feel it is necessary to put you through the process. So go and get antibiotics and go home and rest, zvinopera (you will be well).”
I did not know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, I said thank you.I walked away still feeling numb and confused. From the ball of emotions I felt from the moment I was referred to Wilkins and now being suddenly being told to go home some three hours later, I felt aggrieved, angry and I was in shock. So I thought to myself that if this was what they are doing to everyone, then we are in trouble as a nation.
How do you turn people away? Is the protocol not to test, test and test? For my own peace of mind, I actually wished I had been tested. I was caught off guard and my usual feisty self was too weak or in shock to even fight for it. I am now beginning to question the “zero infection” statistics. I felt like people were literally being sent to their deaths and, more critically, to potentially spread this virus.
God bless Zimbabwe because we are in for a rough ride and at the hands of those who have their own agendas.In the meantime, I am torn: do I self-quarantine? What about all the people I have been in contact with? I literally do not know what to do.
A concerned citizen, who prefers to be referred to as Doris. As of yesterday she was feeling much better, but is still self-isolating.