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Avoid COVID-19 stigma

SOCIETY must avoid stigmatising quarantined Covid-19 patients and those who have recovered because this serves to reverse the gains in the fight against the disease.

Reports emerging from some communities indicate that recovered patients and those who are still in isolation are being viewed negatively and in some cases being rejected by their communities.

This is not as it should be because this not only hinders the provision of medical care but prevents the disclosure of potential Covid-19 infections, both factors that could increase the rate of infections.

Unfortunately, this in turn undermines the efforts being made in curtailing the spread of the disease and is certainly a great source of concern.

We are, therefore, in agreement with the Minister of Health, Dr Chitalu Chilufya that there should no discrimination against those who have recovered by their communities including those still in quarantine.

Covid-19 knows no religion, political affiliation or indeed race and therefore those who are sick or have been discharged should not be viewed as being the “epidemic” because it is not a sin to fall sick.

Simply put, it’s neither a sin to suffer from Covid-19 nor a death sentence and thus, there should be no fuss about those who tests positive.

We are aware that in some countries Covid-19 victims have even threatened with death and in some cases attacked because people fear they would infect them with the virus.

Some victims have understandably even lost friends and family members. This is unfair and should be discouraged.

In Zambia, such callous acts would not augur with Christian values, which the country espouses as a Christian nation.

Instead, communities should welcome and support Covid-19 victims and their families as anyone can fall victim to the disease which has so far claimed three lives in the country.

There is also need for citizens to defuse misguided myths about the disease and instead adhere to the stipulated health guidelines and Presidential directives.

For instance, some people still believe they can’t contract the disease because it was for wealthy people or those who live in upmarket residential areas or that they were immune from the virus.

No one is immune or safe from the disease which is transmitted through human-to-human contact and anybody can be infected by the virus anywhere, anytime.

We therefore wish to echo Dr Chilufya’s advice to the public to stay safe by observing social distancing, avoiding unnecessary mass gatherings, sanitising regularly, wearing of masks in public and avoid travelling to hotspots such as Lusaka and Kafue, among others.

But sadly, despite repeated appeals from the minister, some churches that congregated at the weekend still went ahead and defied some of the regulations.

Prevention is better than cure. Churches that choose to gather should ensure their members are safe by observing all the guidelines.

Over and above, contracting Covid-19 is not a sin or a crime so victims must not be stigmatised but supported to reintegrate in society.

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