It has been almost a year now since the COVID-19 pandemic has become a reality in Ethiopia. Thinking back of everything that we have been through and all the measures that have been taken to manage the spread of the virus, I get amazed just by how much things have changed since the start of the pandemic. Do you remember just how much we were wary of the virus back in early 2020? In fact, I feel that our fear and precautionary responses to the virus can be described by a bell shaped curve which initially starts at a low level, with the curve becoming steep and going upwards until it reaches a peak. After the peak, the curve slopes downward coming down fast to reach the initial low point.
When it was first announced that the virus has officially been detected in China and later in the other developed countries, we were like ‘Oh, this is a virus for the rich countries, not for us’. This perception remained even after it was officially announced that the virus has entered the country. Shaking hands and kissing to greet was not something we wanted to let go off easily. However, when the government started counting and publishing the number of infections was rising, we went like ‘Oh, this thing must be serious, so we should maybe stop kissing and shaking hands to greet each other’. Our precautionary measures then got stronger when the government announced a state of emergency. At first, we did not complain much because our realization that the virus is indeed something serious reached its peak. This was particularly true when the first deaths in the country were officially announced. I remember when the first person died of the virus and the government gave its condolences to their family, I asked myself if giving out condolences is going to be a sustainable thing given the number of deaths elsewhere in the world was going to the hundreds. Therefore, it was only some time before the same thing happened in Ethiopia. And with the end of the state of emergency coming, we were already growing tired of the lockdowns and the physical distancing restrictions. And after the lifting of the state of emergency, we were like hungry beasts that were long locked down without access to food and were finally set free to hunt the world! We were missing and hungry for life as usual where we would go about our ordinary lives, working, and meeting up with our friends and families. Even the media went slow on reminding us of the numbers of daily infections and deaths. So, who would blame us if the seriousness of the virus is slowly fading from our memories?
And now? I believe our fear of and responses to the virus have reached their minimum. Now, we are well experienced with the virus and have seen that after all, one might not necessary die from it. We all know someone near to us who has been infected once with the virus (for some twice), and seen that they have well recovered. So, we are at the point where we are asking, ‘So what is the problem of getting infected with the virus? Many that we know have been infected and recovered!’ Some would even describe the virus as the slightly stronger version of the common cold.
Sadly, however, the number of deaths is growing by the day. My fear is that just like many of us now know someone close who was infected by the virus, the time also comes when many of us will know someone close who died from the virus. We are being urged to wear masks in public, when going out on the streets and in public transport. But is that really where people are increasingly being infected? My bet is that many of us are being infected during our social gatherings, in cafes, restaurants, during lunches at gatherings. In short, I believe we are being infected in places where we are being allowed to gather without wearing masks. I believe that gathering where drinks and food are available are the best places for infections, because after all, how can one eat and drink with their masks on?
Until we find a lasting solution to the virus, my hope is for our fears and responses to the virus to be described by a steep, upward sloping curve with no peak whatsoever, instead of the bell-shaped curve!