….Part II, a personal Berlin story
From Anthony Mukwita in Berlin
The timeline for the COVID 19 in Germany can be traced back to just about the middle of January 2020.
Twenty twenty started well with all economic prospects pointing to yet another good year of growth in Europe´s largest economy, the fourth in the world.
The Zambian situation had also looked up at the start of the year with Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ngándu setting the GDP growth scale at about 3.2 percent and inflation to remain on a single digit mark.
But that was before the death bug swept across the globe from Wuhan in China to Berlin and right back into the remote neck of the wood of my beautiful country, Zambia, leaving behind it a trail of blood, tears and sweat.
On 27th March our Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ngandu took a bold move to downgrade the GDP projection growth from 3 to about 2 percent due to the bug.
Everyone was deeply scarred by the vicious bug that brought the globe to its knees, changing the very essence of life, business and everything else as we knew it.
Suddenly, there were new terminologies in our vocabulary such as ´social distancing´, ´quarantine´ and ´testing´ to mention but a few, including terminologies like ´don’t touch your face.´
Schools, restaurants were shut down while planes were practically grounded.
If you are in Europe, you probably leave in an apartment, making you constrained for space.
A garden therefore is a luxury around here for many. God knows under ´lock down´ and ´stay at home,´ a garden can come in handy.
The ´Love Bug´ Syndrome
Brothers have been known to do crazy stuff under lock down such as falling in love with their wives all over again (sic,) love in a marriage is a great thing to have and it´s happening now more than ever under quarantine, reports state.
One cool Cat told the wife that he loves her, for the first time in years and she said “are you crazy…is it you or the coronavirus speaking?” and without butting an eye lid he responded, “No honey I am not crazy…it´s me talking to my coronavirus. I really love you.”
Bizarre COVID linked deaths
East becomes west and west becomes east with some suicides being attributed to the bug conundrum while in the Philippines cops shot dead a man for not wearing a protective mask.
My country of residence Germany and my city Berlin is among the worst hit by what I am now starting to call the ´death bug´, of course albeit it’s a far cry from Spain and Italy where fatalities were notching up to 500 in a day give or take.
Two dead people is bad now imagine 500 in one day, it is catastrophic.
Within one month at the start of April the Bundesrepublik here recorded 1,107 fatalities induced by the bug as at 4rd April 2020 just days before Easter, an important date on the Christian calendar for some of us from the Christian religion.
There will be no congregation downtown this Sunday due to the bug.
Easter mass must be the least of the worries for anyone so journing this wonderful city of Berlin and indeed several other cities around the globe.
President Edgar Lungu bold moves for Zambia
In Zambia President Edgar Lungu had already shown bold leadership by announcing some measures such as shutting down churches, pubs and other activities that could be fertile for breeding the bug.
The fact that Zambia is a land locked country does not help matters for obvious reasons such as a direct link to the sea unlike neighbouring countries like Tanzania, Namibia and Angola to mention but a few.
President Lungu like most astute global leaders declared war on the bug and warned the country of tough times ahead as the economics of the country would come under a severe test.
As Africa´s number two top copper producer as the worlds ninth, the writing was on the wall. It would be a bad year economically and those in dire straits would be in even dire need of help.
As a developing country, the pinch of the bug would be more downturn than it would be in Germany with competing needs such as providing public Medicare, education and agriculture to mention but a few on a tight budget.
Germany on the other hand with its economic muscle acted swift with the Chancellor Angela Merkel signing off an US$800 billion stimulus package to see it through the bug trail.
Small business would receive small grants of up to US$16,000 to keep them running, none refundable while some big business would be entitled to about US$3million concessional loans and house holds would get some cash out to keep them going.
The government would also ensure that big vulture business did not cash in and try to buy out ´struggling´ business during the time of stress. Classic textbook welfare stuff.
Business changed instantaneously.
Hotels and restaurants shut down because of the proximity rules of about two meters apart in Deutschland but motor manufacturing companies such as Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen remained alive and ´morgrified´.
Instead of making cars, because no one was buying cars anyhow, they started making ventilators, a crucial tool to keeping COVID 19 critically ill people alive.
Personal lives were shuttered, and the losses were insurmountable in more ways than one.
I still recall with a heavy heart how my official Chauffer Jaime could not travel to the Philippines to give his father a decent farewell and burial because travel restrictions kicked in just a night after his beloved father’s death.
I still recall my youngest son Lushomo 7 waking up and dressing up for school but being told by his mother that he would not go to school due to the bug. Home schooling and Zoom from now on.
With the lockdown entering week three in Berlin, I have taken a ride into the ´dead city´ once beating with a life of its own. Everything is dead.
But it is not all gloom and doom regarding the bug.
The upside has been that I am now spending more time, in fact all the time, with family, the spouse and the boys which of course is a major score we shall cherish for years to come after the bug.
Was this Gods way to help family’s gel in the midst of travesty?
It appears to me like a mix of the bitter with the sweet. The silver lining to every cloud.
Precious lives are being lost at an astronomical rate huge resources are being detoured to fight the bug but at the same time, families that never an hour with each other are now bonding.
The bug has also completely changed the way governments around the globe will deal with pandemics in future.
It doesn’t matter whether you are an African, American or Asian government. The bottom line is the bottom line-saving precious lives and keeping alive the economy. It is all about preparedness for the future.
I am enjoying watching my wife school Lushomo via the internet. I feel like I am a part of something much bigger than dropping the kid off and on at school.
In our President Edgar Lungu´s words, a stitch in time saves nine.
The misery is immense, the damage to the economy abound but like the saying goes, it’s always dark before the sunrise.
Just to put the pandemic in context in Germany officially the virus has been termed as the biggest challenge since World War II. Millions died during the WWII.
Chancellor Merkel, the most powerful woman political figure in the world assured Germans according to the Berlin Spectator that, “There is a glimmer of hope,” regarding slowing down the bug.
The influential leader was, however, quick to add that, “it was far too early to ease restrictions” as she prepared the Bundesrepublik for a totally different Easter.
Malaria, a disease country like my sweet home Zambia has almost eradicated is coming into play here. German is looking at malaria medication as a remedy to cure severe COVID 19 cases here.
Germany now has more COVID cases than reported in China at about 1,107
Stay home, stay safe and clean.
More than 77,000 (04.04.20) cases of infections have been recorded in Germany now on day number 67 of the outbreak with fears the number could rise.
There is no telling how many fatalities would be recorded but the ban in stemming things down and is strictly being observed by German residents.
With Germany, a AAA rated country, it is easy to keep a lid on the scourge because more and more people are being tested.
But it is not easy to keep a similar lid in African countries due to the limited numbers of people being tested.
Testing itself is not cheap as one test kit modestly priced can cost as much as 5 euros or about K100 without even freight being factored in. try a hundred thousand tests.
It is too early to even consider easing the ban in Germany according to government officials, as fines are being discussed for those not adhering to social distancing.
In Zambia, we watch Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya brief the country on a daily basis regarding the bug and we believe this is a good thing to do in order to calm nerves in this hour of need.
As I walk down this personal story, in the back of my mind a popular Bob Marley song rung true “There is a natural mystic flowing in the air…many more will have to suffer, many more will have to die. Don’t ask me why.”
A better end to this story, however, is a Monty Python song, “Always look On the Bright side of Life.”
The bright side for me, myself and I is that I have more time with my team, my family, the still point to the turning world (in picture) as we navigate through this testing time. We know God is ultimately in charge.
Note: Anthony Mukwita has written widely locally and abroad. He is the author of the book “Against all Odds, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu´s Rough Journey to State House.”