Is the Covid-19 pandemic over now?

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Given the likelihood of future Covid-19 waves, experts say the next meeting, scheduled for July, is unlikely to result in such a declaration. So, according to WHO’s scientists, the pandemic is not yet over.

By Fred Zindi

In a word? “No!”

I think it’s risky to declare the pandemic over when people are still dying and that there is always a risk of another wave coming. However, in Zimbabwe, it looks like it is the supermarkets and a few food stores who are still insisting on the “No mask. No entry” policy for customers.

It’s been a difficult two years since the Covid-19 pandemic began. And now, just as we’re starting to sense a possible return to normalcy, many of us feel blindsided by new events such as Russia’s war on Ukraine emerging on the world stage to the extent that we forget about the coronavirus pandemic.

Several musicians I spoke to last week are breathing a sigh of relief as they think that the pandemic is over and that they can all go back to work. One musician approached me and said: “Fred, you know Nick Mandeya, the manager of Chop Chop? Why don’t you please ask him to get us a gig at his club since you are good friends?”

I asked him if he wanted an afternoon gig as shut-down time is still restricted to 10pm. He exclaimed: “You mean people are are still following Covid-19 restrictions when the pandemic is over? Even the president acknowledges that it’s over. Yesterday he went on television without wearing his mask. I am sure he knows the pandemic is over”

We went into a debate on whether or not the pandemic was over. I failed to convince him.

I told him that although it has slowed down, Covid-19 is still in existence. Rates of new infections, hospitalisations, and deaths have fallen nationwide and people are beginning to resume their public lives. That’s right: There’s a glimmer of hope that the Covid-19 crisis is ending. A significant number of the population has received at least one vaccination against the novel coronavirus, and effective treatments are now available. These encouraging developments have many of us looking to the future with hope. But this does not mean to say that the pandemic is gone.

Just as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, the international group now meets every three months to assess the situation and will make an official determination — eventually — as to when the emergency is over. Given the likelihood of future Covid-19 waves, experts say the next meeting, scheduled for July, is unlikely to result in such a declaration. So, according to WHO’s scientists, the pandemic is not yet over.

I thought my debate would be isolated to artistes only until Viola Mabandi, a company secretary said to me: ”This winter is very cold. I hope that it will not bring back Covid-19.”

From there I knew that the majority perception of people on the street is that Covid-19 is gone. However, as I see many of them still wearing masks and sanitisation is being carried out at entry points in supermarkets and grocery stores, I could be wrong in thinking that they think it’s over. What I know for sure is that there has not been an official declarartion from government circles that the pandemic is over and people can now relax.

Even the music shows that were staged this year  were subjected to curfews. Remember the Major League concert which had to be shut down at exactly 10pm due to Covid-19 restrictions?

In Britain, the prime minister, Boris Johnson in his bid to gain more popularity, due to his own problems, decided to end all coronavirus restrictions including mandatory self-isolation for people with Covid-19 and free testing, drawing scepticism from some scientists and political opponents. But that is for Britain. Here in Zimbabwe, many of us are beginning to behave as if the Covid 19 pandemic  is gone; no wearing of masks, no social distancing, no sanitisation and no washing of hands as prescribed by the WHO.

Starved of entertainment, people simply missed going out and partying and any opportunity given to do these things, was most welcome. We are now able to attend concerts in multitudes as evidenced by the recent concerts in Harare by Nigerian musicians, Joe Boy and BurnaBoy  where no social distance rules were  observed. Thousands thronged the Borrowdale Racecourse and the Belgravia Sports Club recently to remove their appetite for music after 30 months of non-activity in this sphere due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this does not mean that the pandemic is gone.

Most musicians took a hit during the pandemic, leading some to second guess their music careers. The last two years have been extraordinarily tough on musicians and music industry professionals, particularly those who went round the country giving concerts at different venues.  While new shows and festivals are being announced, many of us still harbour feelings of uncertainty, knowing that things can change at any moment. Particularly, for emerging artistes, feeling like our careers were stalled significantly due to the pandemic can feel frustrating and even leave us questioning our path in music. I know several who decided to quit the industry forever and are now either into farming or vending.

There’s no doubt that forging a career in this unconventional industry can be difficult at times. Especially when big things are happening globally, it’s normal to question whether this path is right for you. So during the moments when you feel like you are doubting whether building a music career is worth it, or simply if you need an extra hit of motivation this week, you find yourself in self-doubt.

You may love the lifestyle of being a musician: touring and seeing new places, getting to be creative, and not being tied down to a desk.  Your ‘why’ could simply be that you want to bring joy to those who need it during difficult times. Or it could be a combination of a few of these things.

Finding your ‘why’ is not only important when your motivation has wavered, but it can also connect you on a deeper level with your audience, as well as ensure that you find or are working with the right team (managers, labels, agents, etc.). It’s pivotal in clarifying your personal values as an artistewhich can play into things such as lyrics, branding, goal setting and ensuring that the people you work with are on the same page.

So is the pandemic over? I posed the question to five musicians to find out where they really stand and different responses were given to me. Here are their answers:

Musician 1: “If it was over, why would anybody be still wearing masks?”

Musician 2: “It is indeed over. Was there any coronavirus in the first place?”

Musician 3: “As soon as we discovered zumbani, the muti that destroys all diseases, we killed it and it never came back to Africa”.

Musician 4: “The present pandemic is now over, but Covid-19 which originated in China, was meant to destroy humanity except the Chinese themselves. I think the Chinese posed this problem in order to conquer the world, but when the world discovered it, the Chinese went back to the drawing board to think of other strategies. It is a matter of time before we hear of another virus in the making. We musicians, who preach about peace, love and harmony in our effort to entertain the world will remain the victims.”

Musician 5: “There is too much politics in this world. Remember Donald Trump was looking for ways of destroying the Chinese and both the Americans and Chinese began to look for biological weapons to fight each other. This is how the virus came about. For now, it is gone.”

I leave you to draw your own conclusion.

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