The chatter around the canteen is all about the death of a popular health official of Covid-19 in a nearby village.
Panic slowly spread in this part of rural Zimbabwe as news of the death spread in a place where people previously believed themselves to be safe from the virus concentrated in the country’s bustling urban areas.
“This pandemic is scary. Everyone is talking about it and people are scared. We thought we were safe but of course we need to think again,” Chinyandura, 43, told CNN.
Life continues at a normal pace in Zimbabwe’s rural areas during the pandemic. The movement was unrestricted and those wearing face masks were often laughed at.
The funeral attracted large crowds and church gatherings went on for days without any social distancing or face coverings.
In contrast, in cities, the government has introduced a more restrictive lockdown to stem the rise in coronavirus cases. There are long lines at vaccination centers every day as Zimbabweans in urban areas rush to get vaccinated.
Before spreading to their own village, people like Chinyandura thought the epidemic was an ‘urban disease’.
“It’s something that we heard off the radio, it seemed so far away that we never had to worry about it. But now, it’s funeral after funeral, it’s closer to home, The food seller said.
“I am always afraid that a customer might infect me with COVID-19,” Chinyandura said.
The need to survive throughout the day keeps him working, even as the risk of contracting the virus has become a reality.
“I need the money,” she said, serving steaming bowls of Sadza, a local staple, to impatient customers.
“I can’t do anything. If I don’t run this canteen I will die of hunger. This face mask I have to protect myself from covid-19, but how long can I wear it. I have to talk to the customers And breathe at the same time,” Chinyandura said.
There is no takeaway facility in Chinyandura’s canteen, but to reduce the risk, she asks customers to leave after finishing their meal. Some of them consider it rude.
She said, “I love my customers and my canteen helps them relax during lunch but times have changed. They have to leave after dinner because it becomes risky to gather even in small groups. Used to be.”
Her husband, Alfred Makumbe, runs a mill a few yards from his wife’s makeshift kitchen.
Makumbe’s business has also suffered from a strict lockdown in the village, imposed in late June.
no province spared
For the first time since the pandemic hit Zimbabwe in March last year, villagers were afraid to step out, he said.
Makumbe said, “Covid has really affected us. If it doesn’t get you, it will hit your pocket. People are not coming now because of Covid. Police is always tracking us, attracting people.” businesses to close.”
“Covid is here and it’s not here to play out,” he said.
Agnes Mahomwa, chief coordinator of Zimbabwe’s pandemic response, told CNN that no province in the country has been spared.
“We are working hard to ensure that the response teams are as strong as possible using existing structures from past outbreaks,” Mahomwa said.
But Zimbabwe’s vaccination rollout programme, which began in February, has not prioritized rural areas and there is a considerable lack of shots outside cities.
This is because rural Zimbabwe is largely inaccessible due to poor roads and a lack of telecommunications.
Till Thursday last week, 20 lakh doses had been given in a country of about 1.5 crore people. Herd immunity is always a bit slippery, so it would be tempting to cut this line.
Zimbabwe has received donations and purchased more than 5 million vaccines, mainly from China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm.
Finance Minister Mathuli Nkube says millions more shots are to come, although some Zimbabweans may need to be reassured to get the vaccine because of religious beliefs and general misinformation.
“I don’t want to get vaccinated. I’ll see if I get sick,” Chinyandura says.
“I am part of an apostolic sect and although we have stopped all gatherings, we do not take vaccines. I have never been vaccinated in my life,” she said.
However, others like Tiba Tanganyika, 87, of the village, told CNN she was desperate to get a job.
The last time he went to his local hospital to get a shot, nurses warned that his blood pressure was too high and was refused.
“I really want to get it,” Tanganyika said.
‘It Hits Home If It’s Anyone You Know’
About 70% of Zimbabwe’s population lives in poverty and the dilapidated health facilities themselves are in intensive care.
Johannes Marisa, a medical practitioner, described the third wave as a “disaster” and blamed potential super-spreader events such as funerals for the increase in rural areas.
“Tradition is considered more important than any rule,” Marissa told CNN.
However, the death of the senior health officer at Makumbe District Hospital has accelerated the spread of Covid-19.
“We just heard about the death… so everyone is panicking. People are afraid to get tested or even vaccinated because of the increase in cases.
“We used to hear that there was Covid, but now it’s on our doorstep. It always hits home if it’s someone you know,” said Chinyandura’s husband Alfred Mkumbe, who was also related to the officer.
“We all need to get serious,” Sikhanile Sikube, a 28-year-old mother from Domboshwa, told CNN, adding that the health worker’s death should serve as a warning to those who don’t take COVID-19 seriously. .
While winter is almost over, Marisa says Zimbabwe is not out of danger yet.
“We are not out of the woods yet because of people’s attitudes and attitudes. The complacency level with the supersonic community spread is very high. We need more discipline,” Marisa said.