Innocent Kurira, Sports Reporter
MORE needs to be done to educate young people about the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, as calls for social distancing have gone largely unheeded in some Bulawayo’s high-density suburbs.
It was business as usual in Old Lobengula, Iminyela, Pelandaba and Mabutweni, with youths milling around on the dusty roads in small groups oblivious of the danger coronavirus poses to such unnecessary assemblies.
Those taking measures to protect themselves are ridiculed by the groups of youths, while street football has become the in-thing since all recreational and sports activities have been banned for 60 days to help fight the spread of Covid-19.
An observation of and interaction with some of the youths showed that a lot still needs to be done to convince young people that coronavirus is real and can be fatal.
They were casually shaking hands with no care about keeping the recommended two-metre distance from each other. Some companies have sent workers home and operating with a skeletal staff, while churches and schools have closed, but the young people don’t seem to believe the severity of coronavirus.
In fact, they are lulled by the fact that no official positive coronavirus infection has been reported in Bulawayo.
They believe chances of them getting infected are slim since they hang out among themselves and play street football in their neighbourhoods, and don’t go to the city centre.
They do this despite not knowing other people their friends may have been in contact with at home or on the way to their groupings.
Street football matches, they say, is one of their major forms of entertainment due to load shedding, which prevents them from staying indoors watching television or listening to music.
“Lack of entertainment is one of the major reasons the youths are not practising social isolation. Since there is load shedding in our areas, it’s difficult to stay at home because you can’t even watch television or listen to music. This then forces us to continue gathering to play football in order to kill time because we will be at home in the dark after sunset anyway because electricity is reconnected late at night,” said one youth from Old Lobengula.
“Corona is not in Bulawayo as yet, so there is no need for us to panic as yet. Right now, we are just socialising through football. We have not been told to lockdown like in South Africa, so there is nothing wrong we are doing,” he said.
George Chikomwe, who was also playing street football, felt it was inevitable for people to mingle because they survive through informal trading.
“This pandemic has affected developed countries like Italy and China with good health systems compared to ours. That means once Covid-19 reaches our community, we are bound to witness a high mortality rate, but we can’t afford to self-quarantine because we will have nothing to eat. Most people’s source of income in our community comes from interacting with others,” Chikomwe said.
Another youth acknowledged that the situation surrounding coronavirus is bad and ordinary people were being affected by the lockdown and they were hoping it doesn’t get to that in Zimbabwe.
He conceded that most people are scared of the effects of the virus if the situation escalates locally and questioned if there were enough testing stations, drugs and equipment or any other necessary measures needed to contain the virus.
He also indicated that self-quarantining was hard for some of them because they were overcrowded in their homes.
“We are playing football, but not crowded because we are not more than 50. If government regards 50 as a safe number in public, that means we are probably safe for now. If there is a lockdown, then you will not find us playing football on the streets or doing anything else because it will means our lives are in danger,” he said.
He hoped the government will come up with effective measures to curb spread of the virus to keep ordinary Zimbabweans out of a potentially disastrous situation, so that life returns to normal for them.