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Quarantined in the line of duty

Daniel Chida

Diary of a journalist

The initial excitement and relief at being told I was going to get an essential service permit came to an abrupt end on the morning of Thursday 9 April.

I have seen and experienced much in my nine years with The Voice but this is a day that will remain etched into my memory forever.

A missed call from my diligent colleague, Portia Mlilo, proved to be the prelude to my troubles.

Since I was running late for the Extra Ordinary Meeting of Parliament scheduled for Boipuso Hall, I asked her to leave me a message on WhatsApp.

Instead, she sent me a short clip that literally sent chills down my spine.

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The video showed Minister of Health and Wellness, Lemogang Kwape announcing that everyone – myself included – who attended the previous day’s General Assembly was at risk of Covid-19. Apparently, the nurse who had been in charge at the Assembly had just tested positive for the virus.

The first stop after receiving such devastating news was the bathroom; out of the blue I had a runny stomach!

Then the calls from colleagues started coming in, Mmegi’s Tsaone Basimanebotlhe being the most persistent – and irritating!

After taking a few minutes to compose myself – although my heart continued to beat like an Overthrust drum – I eventually answered her call.

The panic in her voice echoed the shock I was feeling.

“Okae re a batliwa, itlhaganele,” she blurted as a way of introduction.

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I then contacted another comrade, Victor Baatweng who told me he was stocking up on books and was preparing for quarantine.

However, I had supplies of a different kind in mind.

Accompanied by a bottle of gin and wine, together with some hastily packed clothes, I made my way warily to Boipuso – after all, I still had a job to do!

For once I completely ignored the rules of the road, talking non-stop on the phone as I drove into town. Even the manned roadblock by the Old BURS offices wasn’t enough to cut my call.

As the officer approached, the rebuke – and possible fine – he was surely about to deliver caught in his throat as he overheard my heated conversation.

“How can you mix us with a person from High Risk, go riana rotlhe re ka tswa re tsenwe ke bolwetse but ke motseleng.”

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His eyes widening with fear, the cop quickly signaled for me to pass. Foot down, I pressed the ML but got little joy from the speed. All I could picture was death and a funeral without friends and family.

“Guys go out there and do your job but be careful because there is no story worth your life. It’s unfortunate because if you die we won’t have the chance to bury you so take extra care,” my Editor, Emang Bokhutlo’s last words before we parted for lockdown ringing in my head.

The day, spent mixing at Boipuso again, passed in a haze with more questions than answers – you should know, you guys watched the whole episode live!

Afterwards I drove straight home and locked myself in, my mind racing but my body resigned to not going anywhere for the next 14 days.

LONELY DAYS: Self quarrantined

Again my phone rang repeatedly, as concerned family members kept calling to check on me. With tears threatening, my uncle Emmanuel Chida informed me he was going to pray for me.

“Why, am I dying?” I asked the pale but ruggedly handsome reflection staring back at me from the mirror.

In the end I opened a bottle of wine and woke up the following morning, disheveled and fully clothed in the sitting room.

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It started to sink in that I had chosen home quarantine over government one. Despite a slight hangover, I hit the treadmill to run off some nervous tension.

The stories that I was working on at Parliament made it to the paper, with one being the lead, Front Page. “At least that’s something,” I consoled myself, dripping with sweat as my workout intensified.

Quarantine is a different set up. No visitors and the people that call ask depressing questions – how are you, are you okay, don’t worry it’s nothing, any signs yet?

My eating schedule has undergone a drastic change. Breakfast is taken at around 1200 while lunch is usually 1600hrs. I rarely had supper.

Exercise also lost its appeal. I continued but without much enthusiasm as my mind was elsewhere.

Finally, on Sunday, 10 days after going into quarantine, the day of testing dawned

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I woke at around 03:40 like a nervous rabbit and, try as I might, I was unable to get back to sleep.

Normally my Sundays fly by way too quickly but this time the minutes trickled by. I had samp for lunch and drank gallons of hot water with lemon.

Pacing the house like a caged tiger, the video circulating on social media about how tests are conducted did little to calm my frayed nerves.

At 12:25, I received a call from Dr Andia Muke Tshiyuka informing me that they would be coming within two hours only for him and the team to arrive at 15:35.

DOCTOR’S VISIT: After the mission was completed

Mentally I was ready. I didn’t want to delay anymore or receive any lectures.

It’s not a painful test but not comfortable either as the long bud touches areas that have not been touched before. Seconds later and it was all over, samples collected. The softly spoken Dr agreed to take some selfies and then left me to my solitude.

Another anxious wait for results was to follow. On Thursday, we received the consoling news that all MPs were negative.

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However, by the time of going to press, my results were yet to be delivered. It looks like my wait will continue for at least one more day – who’d be a journalist!

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