There were 381 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Malawi as I wrote this article, 2,067 total active cases and 12 new deaths, meaning we now know that the numbers have risen alarmingly the past few weeks. Thirty-one people have died in less than two weeks. We all know what Covid-19 is now and what its impact is; this is the second wave and it has come with serious aggression.
As a people, we are generally quiet vocal on issues to do with our rights; we are emphatic about what we deserve, what we expect and what we should be given. When the tables flip, and we have to talk about our responsibilities, obligations and what is expected of us; our enthusiasm seems to quiver.
However, the thing about rights is they come with responsibilities. For instance, you have the right to own a car but when you do you have the obligation to have it insured, certified for fitness and registered with the road traffic authorities. You also have the responsibility to follow regulations on the road and co-exist in a civilized manner with other drivers on the road. As for the car, it expects you to fuel it and service it and clean it from time to time. One right of owning car, comes with so many responsibilities and obligations. Now this is in terms of an individual item like a car; what more in times of a crisis? Of a national scale? And worse a global scale?
Covid-19 is such a crisis. A crisis of unprecedented global magnitude. We will need to draw a fine line between our rights and our responsibilities during this time because this is a time to be responsible at a scale beyond ourselves, our families, our communities and our nation. Social responsibility is an important factor in this situation and we need to get with the programme quickly.
Social responsibility is a duty and every individual has to act for the benefit of the society at large. Social responsibility is important as we go through our day to day lives e.g. not littering, following stipulated laws, giving to the community; but it is even more important in matters of crisis and, worse, a crisis that is leading to death in other instances.
This is not a time to start debating about who is doing or not doing what; this is the time for everyone to recognise the fact that this is global pandemic and is nobody’s fault that human beings on earth have been affected by it. Rather, this is the time for every citizen to ask themselves: What can I do to help? How can I be responsible in this situation?
Naturally, we as human beings, look out for ourselves first before doing something that benefits others and we seek comfort over challenge. But, in this crisis, whatever discomfort weighs nothing against your potential death or that of your family or someone out there you might not even trace back to you. Social distancing is now the religion, practice it without wavering because the health and lives of yourself and others depend on it. Wash your hands, practice hygiene, go digital and avoid unnecessary travel and physical interactions.
We have circumvented our way around a lot of things; flouted procedures, used bribes to get our way, used our prestige to be favoured, used our connections to cut through long processes. However Covid-19 is no respecter of persons. It looks at neither race nor religion nor position nor social standing nor power nor riches nor location. It simply hits. Nobody is immune. The only chance there is to contain the disease is to take the necessary precautions to avoid its spread.
The pandemic is not one to be easily contained once the spread starts, one infection can lead to infections of a whole community in record speed. People need to be diligent and those who have suspicions about their status need to follow the right procedures to be checked instead of flouting procedures and putting even more people and medical personnel at risk. Government needs to engage in rigorous civic education to help people understand the full impact of the disease; otherwise, most are operating from a place of limited understanding that is leading to misguided reactions.
The national anthem, stanza three, comes to mind:
Freedom ever, let us all unite, To build up Malaŵi.
With our love, our zeal and loyalty, Bringing our best to her.
In time of war, or in time of peace, One purpose and one goal.
Men and women serving selflessly, In building Malawi.
I rest my case.