The World Health Organisation says Africa is at high risk of contracting COVID-19 largely because its health infrastructure is in bad shape. The Great Dyke News 24 crew visited Beitbridge border post which is the busiest port in Sub-Saharan Africa to assess the state of preparedness by both the Zimbabwean and South African sides.
The one clear thing that emerged is that the population on either side of the border believe they are fairly immune to the Coronavirus.
“We have seen worse,” the vendors on the Zimbabwean side were heard on countless times saying.
There is also a pervasive belief that Coronavirus does not attack people of African descent.
“It’s a white man’s disease,” was a common statement.
Asked by the Great News24 team, one South African police officer who neither had a mask, sanitiser nor gloves as he perused through multiple passports and literally had zero social distance, boldly asserted: “My friend, forget Coronavirus. I am Corona myself.”
The same sentiments were shared by other police officers on the Zimbabwe side who were lined up across the border post doing some random searches of touts who now roam the Beitbridge border town.
While there is a large number of compliance to the initial screening on either side, a group of women were overheard debating among themselves the various implications of being found with a high temperature.
“Can you imagine, I am on my way home and I am suddenly taken to hospital and locked up for one month. I will run away”. One of the ladies was overheard saying this to unanimous approval from her colleagues.
The impression our crew got was that the first line of defence is that public education is very critical. This should go beyond use of posters whose limitation is an inability to engage with the target market.
Since most countries have banned gatherings and social media has largely discredited itself, the most reliable source of information becomes radio which is inexpensive, widely available, interactive and can also be a good link to verifying social media fake news.
The tragedy is that most African Governments including Zimbabwe and South Africa are yet to embark on a coordinated use of this fairly inexpensive medium. Africa cries for innovative ways of using radio and linking to the digital stream. The strongly held view that religion and skin condition make Africans immune to Coronavirus needs to be fought vigorously soon rather than later.