29-year-old Covid-19 Survivor Narrates Epic Ordeal as IHME Predicts Dark Clouds over Four African Countries

As cases on the Covid-19 pandemic continue to swell in Zambia, citizens also continue to censure the authorizes for not doing enough to ensure that its spread is stemmed.

A general laxity in adherence to Covid-19 prevention protocols such as masking up, social distancing and regular hand washing seems to have engulfed the country. This is despite the rise in numbers and terrifying testimonies shared by those who have suffered from the disease.

Izukanji Namumba, 29, of Lusaka, a Covid-19 survivor shares her experience with Timescape, saying suffering from the disease is terrifying.

Izukanji, a wife and mother of two children suspects that she contracted the virus when she visited her father who was not feeling too well.

“…so, I think I could have gotten it from my dad... I was with him the entire day on a Tuesday when he complained of chest pains and slight fever, and then he got sick in the night. I went to see him on Wednesday morning. Then I got sick on Friday…,’ she narrates.

Izukanji adds that she started experiencing symptoms whilst at work on June 26. She decided to go to Levy Mwanawasa hospital that same day where she was attended to, got swabbed and given Azithromycin and other medication. She was then sent back home to wait for the results, although the doctor who attended to her confirmed that she had symptoms of Covid-19.

“…It was a horrible feeling, I was feeling so cold, and my whole body from ribs inside was in pain. My temperature was high, that is how I went to the hospital after work, got swabbed and then the waiting period began…,” she quips.

Izukanji narrates that even if she did not have her test results on time, she suspected that it was Covid-19 because she had never felt that sick before, adding that it was a different thing altogether.

She bemoans the fact that she only managed to get 3 days off work, Monday to Wednesday and she was back at work on a Thursday, though still unwell.

“… the following days were hell! My Chest was in so much pain, I lost sense of smell and taste and for almost seven days, it was just like that. Moreover, during this whole time, my results had not come out. It was rough because I have kids and I was scared that they might catch whatever it is I had…”

She tells Timescape that she only got her results 17 days after testing, noting that her family comprising her husband, two children aged 4 and 8, were only due for testing after her results were confirmed positive.

“My husband just had a continuous headache and high blood pressure; I think he was devastated. My older child kept going on about how I had Covid-19 symptoms. But it was hard, especially for the 4-year-old. He needed attention from mommy. They were tested on July 16, but up to now the results have not been availed to us”.

This long wait for results has left Izukanji saddened and she says those that are taking the tests go through so much, pointing out that as opposed to the 48 to 72 hours that the Ministry of health officials preach about, it takes over two weeks to overcome this challenge. This has led her to think the delays in issuing results after testing could also be a contributing factor to the rise in the number of positive cases because by the time results are communicated, one would already have infected more people.

“The results are taking long and things are getting worse, I honestly think that is why we have a high number of Brought in dead cases –BIDs- because imagine if I had died considering how bad I was feeling? The government can do better honestly at least report correctly, my experience makes me think things are worse than we see”.

 

Izukanji Namumba remains a cheerful person despite her ordeal fighting the deadly Covid-19

Izukanji is however not happy to be added to Zambia’s Covid-19 statistics of those that contracted the virus, even if she has recovered. She advises the public to adhere to the health preventative guidelines such as masking up, social distancing, and regular hand washing.

According to the Ministry of Health, as of August 12, the country had recorded 8,501 cases since March 2020 when the first case was recorded. In addition, from this number, recoveries stood at 7004. Covid-19 cases were at 73 while Covid-19 associated deaths stood at 160.

The government is beginning to take the full measure of the crisis and, to ensure that public adherence to prevention measures such as the use of masks, social distancing are stepped up, President Edgar Lungu has directed the Ministry of Home Affairs through the Health Minister, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya to enforce statutory instrument numbers 21 and 22 of 2020.

The statutory instruments, which were signed on March 13 by Dr. Chilufya speak to public health measures that were put in place to ensure the prevention and further spread of Covid-19 but remained largely ignored.

Among the measures were directives closing premises that attract crowds of more than 5 people that are not family members such as bars and night clubs. They also spell out penalties to be suffered for non-adherence to regulation 14 which states that: “A person who fails to comply with a directive, prohibition or restriction of an authorized officer or otherwise contravenes these regulations commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred penalty units or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both”.

To this effect, Zambian Police have intensified their day and night patrols, checking on how the public is observing the health guidelines.

In a statement issued to Timescape Wednesday August 12, Police Public Relations Officer, Esther Katongo said thus far 43 people had been arrested in Lusaka in an operation conducted on August 11. Ms. Katongo noted that most of those apprehended were bar attendants and patrons and that they have all been charged with conduct likely to cause the breach of peace.

“As for erring bars and night clubs, a recommendation will be made to the local authority to have their trading licenses revoked. These operations will continue countrywide hence, members of the public are advised to adhere to public health regulations and avoid finding themselves in confrontation with the Police,” the statement read.

Ms. Katonga has  further advised members of the public to ensure that they mask up when in public places as that is a direction given by health experts in a bid to avert Covid-19, failing which they will face the law.

According to Regulation number 14 of the Statutory Instrument number 22, any person who fails to comply with a direction, prohibition or restriction of an authorized officer commits an offence. Wearing of the mask is one such direction given by health authorities,’’ the statement clarifies.

Meanwhile in new Covid-19 projections for sub Saharan Africa, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington released August 11 identifies Zambia as one of the countries to be hard hit by the pandemic way up to December 1.

IHME projects that the largest numbers of deaths are likely to occur in South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, and Zimbabwe if for instance preventative directives such as social distancing continues to be eased.

The analysis highlights the potential impact of effective prevention measures. For instance, if correct mask use increases to 95 per cent and social distancing dictates are re-imposed, Zambia’s death toll could be reduced from 1,439 (260 to 6,389) to 540 (220 to 1, 809). This could also imply that 899 lives could be saved by December 1 if there is the correct use of masks.

IHME's modelling of the Covid-19 pandemic draws on reporting from African ministries of health as well as data characterizing the virus's spread from countries around the world. The projections were produced in consultation with the Africa CDC, an arm of the African Union.

According to the Director of the Africa Center for disease control Dr, John Nkengasong, the data provides an additional set of projections that governments can take into consideration in their decision-making process on how best to protect lives.

“Many thousands of deaths can be prevented by continuing to encourage correct, widespread, consistent mask use, social distancing, and careful people movement. We at the Africa CDC are working closely and collaboratively with heads of state, ministers of health, and others to provide counsel on how to navigate this epidemic while seeking to minimize the economic and social consequences," Dr. Nkengasong said.