‘More needs to be done to educate people about COVID-19 to avoid stigma’

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A 28-year-old COVID-19 survivor from Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape says a lot still needs to be done to educate communities about the virus.

Sivuyile Ntlanjana is one of the people infected by the coronavirus at the doomed Majola funeral in Port St Johns on 21 March.

He says people should stop stigmatising those infected by the virus, but rather get tested in order to know their own status.

Sivuyile Ntlanjana works as a driver at a funeral parlour in Port St Johns. On the day of the funeral at Majola village, he was the one who delivered the corpse to the bereaved family.

In the video below, the Eastern Cape intensifies COVID-19 screening following positive cases from the Majola funeral. 

Two weeks later, he tested positive for COVID-19 and was sent to St Barnabas Hospital in Ntlaza for isolation.

“I was very scared. It was the first time I went to the hospital. I lost hope, because around April last year, I lost my parents. I thought I would not make it. The nurses there did not have enough equipment to look after patients, but they were very supportive. I took garlic, lemon and ginger with warm water. Then after eight days, I was tested again and the results came back negative.”

In the video below, Eastern Cape COVID-19 patients lament stigmatisation. 

But more pain awaited him after he was discharged from hospital where he spent 13 days. Ntlanjana alleges that locals at the small resort town stigmatised him.

“A few days ago, I went to town to buy some groceries. People kept pointing fingers at me, saying ‘this is the person who has corona.’ The way I see it, even shops would close before time because they see me. I had to leave without buying the groceries. That is why I’m saying more awareness campaigns are needed to educate people about the virus.”

Fellow workers at the funeral parlour were also stigmatised. A co-worker, Vuyisa Gagu says things became hectic when locals started isolating themselves from them.

“People were running away from us. We were scared. After I heard that one of our colleagues was infected by the virus I sent my wife to her maiden home because I was scared of infecting her.”

Branch manager, Zukiswa Maseti says the business was negatively affected. “Our clients did not come like they used to. They were saying there’s coronavirus at our funeral parlour. I encourage people to go and tested so that they know their status.”

At the moment, there are 40 confirmed positive cases at Port St Johns. The local municipality has called for more health officials to be dispatched to conduct more screening and testing campaigns.

In the video below, the owner of Port St Johns Mfolozi Funeral Parlour in Eastern Cape explains  the stigmatisation: