Coronavirus chronicles: A Norway based Motswana’s perspective

Globalisation has for many years meant that capital, services and people can move freely between countries and continents. The same is unfortunately true of diseases. 

Here is how I see it in my mind’s eye: You hop on a plane from China and take a connecting flight to Africa somewhere in Europe. Before you arrive at your destination, you’ve sneezed and coughed your way across three continents and unknowingly infected dozens with corona, who will, in turn, infect a dozen others and so on and so forth. It’s a vicious cycle.

The world has come to a complete stop or so it feels, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. A viral disease that originated in Wuhan China last December, has, in the blink of an eye caught many countries with their guards down and infected many, and is still spreading like wildfire, leaving many dead and the world economy unstable. Caused by the Coronavirus, Covid-19 is named by the World Health Organization with reference to the type of bug it is; Covid virus disease, and the year it emerged. 

Covid-19 symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat and severe breathing difficulties to name but a few. People with a weak immune system, underlying illnesses, high blood pressure and the elderly have shown to be at risk of losing their lives to the virus. In complicated cases, Coronavirus can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure and acute respiratory illness.

I am a Motswana living and working in Norway and I find myself caught in the middle of what feels like a horror film. The corona-nightmare. Just two weeks ago, we were taking it easy, not that worried about Corona until it hit us, and hit us real hard. Norway has, as of today, 2566 infections, with give or take 200 new infections every day. These numbers are most likely to increase from what we see on the local news. The World Health Organization WHO has also warned that the pandemic is accelerating. 

So far in Norway, 12 people have died from the virus. Amid all this, there are still concerns that some people are not taking state rules and regulations seriously in order to limit new infections. Many still have the “we will be just fine” attitude towards corona despite thousands of deaths and increasing infections worldwide.

On the 12th of March, my colleagues and I got a loud and clear message to pack our belongings and go home for a 14-day quarantine. Working in a school, this was a unified message from the Norwegian government to all schools and kindergartens in a desperate move to reduce, limit/prevent new infections. Research shows that if one is infected, it would show within two weeks.

What followed the closure of schools and nursery schools only a few days later was public places such as libraries, sports facilities and the cancellation of many activities that involve large numbers of people such as entertainment, exhibitions, church services, among others. Only the bare necessities remain open as I type this, and these are pharmacies, banks, supermarkets, petrol stations, some public transport and hospitals. 

I was scared at first when I saw people scrambling for food, household supplies and medicines as everywhere began to shut down. But now, even though I’m still petrified, I am calm as there is really nothing we can do but follow the government’s rules and precautions in order to win the fight against Coronavirus. 

Some people still do not adhere to basic hand hygiene, holding a minimum distance of at least one meter away from others and keeping socialising to a minimum. Some people are still having parties and youths are still meeting in large groups.

Just a few days ago, the Norwegian government issued a statement that whoever breaks the rules of quarantine will face a charge of NOK20,000/P22,000. 

Before things got bad, the thought of running away from Norway to my country Botswana did cross my mind. It is too late now as airports and ports have since closed in Norway and I respect that. 

From what I’ve seen of the news from Botswana, most of the country’s borders are now closed. Nobody is leaving and nobody is coming in. It all makes sense and I applaud the government on this move. I sincerely hope too, that the famous picture that is circulating on social media of Botswana surrounded by countries with Coronavirus and zero cases in Botswana is true and with any luck, stays that way until the storm is over. Only time will tell.

Here in Scandinavia, we will carry on in self-quarantine until further notice. Everything feels like a slow-motion effect. We are here and we do not know when things will go back to normal again. Health workers and supermarkets are our heroines and heroes now, as they must carry on working to provide food and health care. We are advised to hold at least a one-meter distance from the next person. All or most shops have hand disinfection gel or wipes at the entrance for customers to use on the way in and on the way out. 

Who knows? For if we are not vigilant, we might end up like Italy and that would be sad, as over 69,000 people are infected, more than 6800 have already lost their lives and over 3,000 are in a critical state. 

My school’s quarantine was supposed to end on the 26th of March but has since been extended to the 13th of April. As I write this, nobody really knows when everything will go back to normal again. Only God knows.

I must say though, that as stranded and nervous as I feel, I am thankful for the extra time I get to spend with my family. I am scared but not defeated. On top of that, the weather has been fantastic, a mild and strange Scandinavian winter which has allowed us to go for nature walks and bike rides, strictly following the quarantine rules. Now, there is something positive out of all these confusing and scary Coronavirus chronicles. 

Please stay home and save lives. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Avoid crowded places and seek medical help as soon as you suspect you might have Coronavirus.

Here is a Bible verse to see us through this rough wave. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

About the author: Gontse Gareebine-Bass is a Motswana writer/teacher who currently resides in Norway with her husband and son. Before setting up roots in Norway, she wrote extensively for respected local publications.

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