Prudence Minisi (49), a wife and mother of four, came into contact with the first case of covid-19 in Eswatini, and got to realise just how real the virus is.

The first case of covid-19 in Eswatini was confirmed on March 14. This was a 33-year-old woman who had returned from the United States 10 days earlier. She did not self-isolate nor get tested, but instead continued with her life normally.

Mnisi and her boss met with the woman at a work meeting in Mbabane, on March 6. Ten days later, she received a call from the Central Bank where the first case was employed and was told to go get tested as the woman had tested positive for the virus. Mnisi had no symptoms so she was told to go home without getting tested because she was not showing symptoms.

As told to Khuleko Siwele

I was going about my normal duties early on and there were heavy showers outside when I received the call. First it was like a dream. I did not want to believe the person who was doing contact tracing of the people who were in contact with the patient. 

It was only after he told me who the person was that I realised he was telling the truth because the news was now all over the place, that the confirmed person was from the Central Bank.

Immediately after he dropped the phone, I went to inform my boss because I had been in the same meeting with my boss. He immediately advised us to go to the hospital, which we did. 

Just by the entrance when you report that you were in contact with an infected person, they immediately take you to an isolation room where you are immediately attended to. 

There was no panic from the doctors because they had anticipated that with the first case now having been reported in the country, many people would be in the mode of panic and start flooding the hospital.

What the doctor said was that they were not prepared since they did not have enough testing equipment yet. Hence, they only tested those who had the symptoms and if you didn’t have the symptoms, they told you to self-isolate for 14 days to see whether you develop the symptoms, and that’s what happened with me.

Not being tested and being told to self-isolate when you don’t know whether you contracted the virus or not, makes you see yourself as someone posing danger to your family. I was really frustrated seeing from other countries how deadly the virus can be.

I was already in a state of confusion because it was a new case and all along, we were under the belief that the virus does not affect black people. I remember when I called my daughter in my nervous state, the first thing she wanted to know was if the person was white or black.

To make it worse we had little information on the symptoms when we had contact with the first patient, who has since recovered. She had the symptoms but for me I know her to have sinuses, so I just thought she had sinuses.

The previous day my children had actually come back from school disappointed that their classmates were laughing at some Chinese boys calling them coronavirus. 

I was now in a fix over whether I should tell them that I actually had contact with the first case. They were aware of the deadly virus but for them it was still far. I remember that I was even due to travel to Ghana and my daughter was not happy about the scheduled trip. On hearing that traveling to other countries was banned and flights cancelled she was happy. 

I did not tell [the younger children] until after 14 days when I realised that I was still not developing any symptoms. I just said that because I use a [taxi] travelling to work I can be exposed, that I won’t touch them and they should avoid touching me. The only two people I told while I was in hospital were my daughter at university and my husband.

I actually did not self-isolate, I just made sure that I washed my hands regularly and observed social distance. 

With the first case there was a lot of panic. Schools closed when it was discovered that the first contact case had children in one of the private schools, and that her children had had contact with other children. 

Considering the population in Eswatini, the rate of infection is alarming, however, due to the high inequality levels people are not adhering to the lockdown rules.

The brush with an infected person changed my perspective about the virus. I realised that it was real, and it is not a matter of race or nationality, but it affects everyone. It knows no boundaries. It’s like staring death in the face. 

According to the Worldometer website, on May 14, Eswatini had 187 confirmed covid-19 cases, two deaths and 51 recoveries.

RELATED IMAGE: Prudence Mnisi recently got the scare of her life when she found out she had come into contact with the first covid-19 case in Eswatini. Photo: Provided.