LOWER GWERU: The Ngwenya family of Lower Gweru, Chief Sogwala’s area will rue the day they opened a coffin containing a COVID-19 infected corpse in a bid to confirm identity upon being returned by ‘messengers’ from South Africa dead.
“My son was in South Africa and we woke up to surprise visitors on Saturday who brought him in a coffin saying he had succumbed to a short illness. We gathered the family, about 10 people and opened the coffin to confirm my son’s identity,” confirmed the deceased’s mother Modius Ngwenya.
Five have since died while two others are in isolation, within a week, following the regrettable incidence.
The number is however against community suspicions being circulated via social media that 27 people who attended the funeral have died from supposed food poisoning.
“How the body passed the boarders, we do not even know. Having no document showing that my son had succumbed to COVID-19, we thought it’s safe to open the coffin for confirming identity. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into,” she further narrated.
As COVID-19 struck, government of Zimbabwe banned transportation of infected bodies with the deceased supposed to be buried in the same City they died. The move is to help curtail further spread of the coronavirus across the nation,’ government said then.
The measure was regardless the fact that this is not a culture in a country where the dead are supposed to be buried in the same places as their ancestors.
Ngwenya’s now deceased son was 35.
“First to fall ill with flu like symptoms was my sister. We boiled guava leaves hoping she would get better but it didn’t work. We later decided to have her ferried to Gweru where she tested COVID-19 positive and sadly, she did not make it,” Ngwenya told CommuTalk as she narrated how the family realized the virus was in their midst.
Of the now deceased, two are neighbors and close family members while the other 3 are villagers who all attended the funeral.
Meanwhile, Ngwenya’s husband and daughter are both in quarantine and this has triggered stigmatization in the community.
“My husband and daughter have since both tested COVID-19 positive. It is also sad to note that because of this misfortune, we have become victims of stigmatization. People no longer even pass through greeting us neither do they attempt nearing our yard,” said Ngwenya in a somber tone.
Community leaders have however blamed the family for ignorance citing that they always educate people not to do body viewing even if the deceased has not died of COVID-19.
“When the body arrived, I was not around but after learning of the family’s fate, I would say they are ignorant as we are always educating the community on how to survive these trying times,” said councilor Elias Mubaiwa of Ward 2 under which the saga is soaring.
“We warn people on how to survive under these trying times but many treat you as foolish. To some you even become an enemy. As traditional leaders, I think we need more support from government in spreading the safe keeping gospel if we are to avoid many such cases in the future,” added village head Siziwe Siyaphi.
Besides the situation at hand, Chief Sogwala also blamed the youth for their negligence in following COVID-19 regulations and thereby being possible spreaders of the virus.
“It is sad what befell the Ngwenya family. It is also sad what they are suffering now including psychological trauma though the honest truth remains we educate people on how to live these difficult moments but they do not listen.
“Of particular burden when it comes to defying COVID-19 set regulations in my community is the youth. The only language they understand is that of repressive state apparatuses like the police as they often go out with even wearing masks,” further said the Chief.
Chief Sogwala’s observation tallies well with provincial COVID-19 statistics that say ages 31-40 are the most affected by the virus in the province followed by ages 41-50 and 20-30.
The statistics also show that 55% of the infected genders are male.
As of July 19, provincial statistics further revealed that of the Gweru topped Midlands hotspots with 421 active cases, followed by Kwekwe (332 active cases), Gokwe South (180 active cases), Zvishavane (179 active cases) and Shurugwi (121 active cases).
Latest records however show that Midlands Province has a total of 1997 active cases having suffered 235 deaths cumulatively.
Zimbabwe at large reported its third highest Covid-19 infections on Tuesday – 2,683 – including 50 deaths. Hospitalisations are at a record high, with 811 people currently admitted. Vaccination peaked at 63,059 for the first dose, getting closer to the 70,000/day target