This is what social distancing means to us. It means that my mum and my son have to interact over a fence and be at least a metre apart. It means that I have to explain to my 17 month old that his grandmother can’t hold him and he can’t hug her. It means that I can’t hug my mum either and we don’t know how long for.
My parents and I are all high-risk. My dad is over 60 and has blood pressure issues; my mum is diabetic; and I am pregnant. Ayaan is the easiest vector between us all. Self isolation is really hard but living in one of the poorest countries in the world, there really is no option but prevention. A nationwide lockdown in a country like Malawi is incredibly challenging because majority of the population live well below the poverty line and survive pay cheque to pay cheque. Many would rather take their chances with the virus (which may or may not kill them) but not working and having no income will definitely result in a more grim outcome for them and their families.
Social distancing and self isolation are privileges, but so many that are privileged to do so are choosing not to. There is a feeling of invincibility among them. The rest of the world is seeing an over load on their health system capacities, and some of the best health systems are struggling; how well will Malawi cope where health systems have been struggling long before Covid 19. These are seemingly easy measures that we can all take to protect ourselves and our loved ones and as a public health professional it worries me to see so much push back towards it, but it does not surprise me.
Those unwilling to practice social distancing make it even harder for those already doing so. I can only control my situation and unfortunately that means keeping very strict isolation rules. This means that I can’t interact with my family or friends because majority are either not practicing social distancing themselves or are in very close contact with someone who isn’t. It also means that if something happens to a loved one during this time I will not be able to be there for them, and that scares me most.
That may seem pretty extreme to many but knowing that Covid 19 can potentially be vertically transmitted and not knowing what the implications of that could be for my unborn child, it would incredibly irresponsible of me to not be cautious. And so this is what the foreseeable future looks like for Ayaan and I.
There is so much uncertainty surrounding our future at the moment. We don’t know what this means for the birth of our next child, our mental health, and it all seems very discouraging and disheartening and my anxiety has been in overdrive. However, there is less uncertainty in not complying and that outcome is likely to be less favourable. So we will continue, not just for ourselves but for those that we love. So if you are among the privileged and you are reading this I implore you to take these measures seriously because the only way through this is in solidarity.
*If you would like to speak more please don’t hesitate to reach out*