While most Zimbabweans celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, going through the annual festive rituals, Mitchell Hunzvi (30) was reflecting and reminiscing over what has been a dreadful year.
The Christmas holiday is a time she typically spends with her family, exchanging gifts and making merry.
However, this year has been different.
Covid-19 has dealt her family a blow, one so immense that Christmas Day has been rendered a time to grieve over her loved ones she lost to the virus.
On July 4, Mitchell tested positive for Covid-19.
The following day her boyfriend, Reason Hungani (32) died from the same virus.
Her stepfather, Adam, who was in South Africa, died on July 14 after contracting the virus.
Sophia Hunzvi, her mother, died seven days later from coronavirus.
This tide of misfortune left Mitchell, her 23-year-old brother Andrew and four-year-old sister Tanaka shattered.
Speaking to The Sunday Mail on Christmas Day at her Mabelreign home in Harare, Mitchell said she could not afford an inkling of festive cheer.
Dressed in black, her face told the story of immense pain, a tale of a young woman dealing with the loss of nearly half of her family to a deadly pandemic, within a space of a month.
“I have lost interest in everything,” she said as she fought back tears.
“I was dreading the festive season; this was our family time.
“Mum and dad used to cook up a storm of a meal for Christmas. I miss her food and her smile.
“My mother was always the life of the party, she cherished every moment with friends and family and my stepfather loved taking us out on Christmas.”
She fondly remembers her boyfriend, Reason, who would come over to her home to join her family’s Christmas celebrations.
“This year, they are all gone!”
Losing her loved ones has made celebrating a bitter pill to swallow.
Her younger sibling, Andrew, said this year’s Christmas was a totally different affair.
“It does not feel right celebrating without our parents,” he said.
“It is hard to explain because you want to celebrate this wonderful holiday, but you are also in a lot of pain at the same time.
“We did not even put up the Christmas tree this year.”
Andrew said his four-year-old sister, Tanaka, who is still too young to comprehend the devastation, has not been asking about Christmas festivities.
“Tanaka is doing well. She talks about my mom and our stepfather.
“We try to ensure that she is not missing out on anything, but Christmas will never, ever be the same for us,” he explained.
The pervasive festivities around them during the festive holidays have only served to deepen the scope of anguish.
Mitchell and her siblings are now holding onto precious memories of their family through hundreds of pictures they took over the years.
The family enjoyed vacationing together.
“We would just hit the road and go anywhere,” said Mitchell.
“She loved posing for pictures and I loved taking them, we had so many good times,” she said of her mother.
These memories are helping her deal with her grief.
Covid strikes hard during festive holiday
The festive season holiday is turning out to be a super-spreader season, amid an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.
Zimbabwe recorded 34 Covid-19 deaths over the festive period on Christmas eve.
Between December 14 and Christmas Day, 1 634 new cases of the coronavirus were recorded countrywide.
Nineteen deaths were recorded between Unity Day and Christmas Day, with 458 people testing positive for the virus.
Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Portia Manangazira, said authorities were anticipating a spike in new infections ahead of the holidays.
She said the number of cases had also gone up as a result of ill-discipline in practising preventative and safety measures.
“We anticipated the spike following the opening of schools because we had a lot of schools recording high infections among children towards the closing of schools,” said Dr Manangazira.
“And while children often display subtle symptoms, they rarely progress to critical condition.
“But they can transmit to adults and what may have happened is that when they closed schools and returned home, they infected their parents and guardians.”
She said congestion at the Beitbridge Border Post may have also contributed to the rise in cases.
“Then we have issues at the border where people coming from South Africa have been stuck for days and have been greatly exposed to the risk of infection.”
Chief co-ordinator of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva, said: “We have indeed had a worrying rise in cases in recent weeks and the rise in cases means the rise in deaths as the two move together.
“The truth is that people had become complacent because of our low mortality and good recovery rate.
“An emergency meeting has already been convened to regroup and strategise on how to deal with the Beitbridge issue and the latest spike in cases.”
As of yesterday afternoon, Zimbabwe had recorded 12 880 cases of the coronavirus, while 341 people had succumbed to the virus.
10 468 recoveries have been recorded.
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