Panic has started setting in rural parts of Zimbabwe as news of COVID deaths spread in a place where people had previously considered themselves safe from a virus.

43-year-old Pauline Chinyandura who lives in rural area told CNN, “This pandemic is scary. Everyone is talking about it and people are panicking. We thought we were safe but surely we need to think again.”

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Things were different Zimbabwe’s rural areas, where people continued at a normal pace through the pandemic. Earlier, there was no restriction on movement and those who wore face masks were often laughed at. The urban areas had restriction until now to curb a surge in coronavirus cases. The country officially entered the third wave of infections at the start of winter in May, with the Delta variant dominating cases.

In June, things changes and three of the country’s four districts, which were declared as epicenters were in predominantly rural areas.

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On July 29, there were more than 105,000 COVID cases and nearly 3,421 deaths.

Before the outbreak in her own village, people like Chinyandura thought the pandemic was a ‘city disease.’

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“It is something we heard from the radio, it seemed so distant that we never had to worry about it. But now, it is funeral after funeral, it has hit closer to home,” the food vendor said.

Chinyandura’s canteen has no takeaway facility but, to minimize risk, she asks customers to leave after finishing their meals. Some of them consider that rude.

The villagers are afraid of venturing out now.

Agnes Mahomva, chief coordinator of Zimbabwe’s response to the pandemic, told CNN that there is no such province in the country where COVID cases have not been reported.

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He said that they were working hard to ensure that the response teams are helping out people using existing structures.

The African nation started its vaccination programme in February but it did not prioritise rural areas. Poor roads and a lack of telecommunications are main reasons behind the delay.

There is marked shortage of shots outside the cities also. In a country of almost 15 million people, only 2 million people were administered jabs till Thursday last week.