Citizen Reporter
Reporter
5 minute read
21 Jan 2021
5:00 am

WRAP: 300 days of lockdown – How we survived

Citizen Reporter

We take a look at what has happened since president Cyril Ramaphosa announced the national lockdown.

Picture for illustration. Healthcare workers treating Covid-19 patients at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, 11 January 2020, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Jab roll-out a challenge

According to the World Health Organization, some 168 potential vaccines are currently in development. AFP/File/CHANDAN KHANNA

The Covid-19 pandemic has not only brought with it pain, misery and death, but has also come with valuable social, political and health lessons on how to better respond to such phenomena.

In March the government imposed what was considered one of the strictest lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19, including bans on alcohol and tobacco sales, dog walking and jogging.

The virus’ wins and losses

Nurses observe International  Nurses day at the Zone 17 Clinic, Stand no 62064, Sebokeng, 12 May 2020.  The Minister of Health, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, the Deputy Minister Dr Joe Phaahla, together with MECs for Health in all 9 Provinces will held  a special candlelight ceremony for all nurses in the country. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Now, 300 days into the lockdown, the country has finally secured Covid-19 vaccines and the health system has improved in saving lives – but the economy remained in dire straits, while the relationship between the police and communities continued to decay.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in March last year the country would be in a lockdown for just 21 days, businesses were shut, schools closed and law enforcement deployed to stop those found in the streets.

While there were some successes, particularly in the healthcare sector, the country made some blunders in one of the longest lockdowns in the world, said experts.

The pandemic broke an already broken economy

Workers at the Beerhouse, in Long Street join other people working in the restaurant, food and alcohol industry in a nationwide protest against provisions in South African government Lockdown legislation, which threatens the survival of the businesses and jobs, in Cape Town city centre, on July 22, 2020. The reintroduction on the ban on alcohol sales and a night curfew by the South African government will have a negative economic impact on the hospitality industry. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP)

2020 was not only one of the deadliest, but also one of the costliest years in the history of South Africa.

Covid-19 and the 300 days and counting of lockdown, meant to contain the spread of the virus has cost South Africa millions of jobs, economic growth and tourists, while the alcohol and tobacco ban saw the country lose billions in lost revenue.

Covid-19 vaccine key to recovery

Picture: iStock

Herd immunity to deadly, infectious diseases cannot work without a vaccine, unless you allow millions to die unnecessarily.

This was according to epidemiologist Jo Barnes in the wake of heightened scepticism about the global Covid-19 vaccination drive.

While some have theorised that one simply needed to let populations become infected without lockdown restrictions in order to speed up the process of herd immunity, Barnes warned that nowhere had this ever been carried out without dire consequences.

 

Over 1,000 rule breakers nabbed a day

A Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officer frisks a driver during a roadblock after curfew, to help curb the spread of COVID-19, in Johannesburg on December 29, 2020. – The South African president on December 28, 2020 announced new lockdown measures to halt the spread of COVID-19. One of the measures is a new curfew that will now start at 9 pm — from 11 pm previously — while non-essential establishments such as shops, bars and restaurants will close from 8 pm. (Photo by Wikus de Wet / AFP)

In the 300 days since South Africa first went into lockdown, on average more than 1,000 people have been arrested every day for contravening the Disaster Management Act and the regulations published under it.

Last week, Police Minister Bheki Cele said more than 342,000 people had been arrested and charged under the Act.

Exhaustion has a new meaning – medic

A nurse exits the red zone at the Nasrec quarantine/isolation site in Nasrec, 3 July 2020. Picture: Neil McCartney

“We have seen it all, from the patients who are paranoid about catching the virus to the patients who actually die from
the virus,” says Xander Loubser, paramedic and spokesman for Ambu-link.

Loubser also works shifts in various intensive care units where he assists patients with airway treatment.

“My colleagues are exhausted. The second wave of infections has definitely taken its toll on healthcare workers. Exhaustion has a new meaning.”

The day Covid took my friend

Picture: iStock

Covid took my friend. For three weeks he was in a death battle with this virus and he lost – with no wife to hold his hand, no kids to hug him, no friends to whisper in his ear that he is so much more than just a good doctor.

He died all alone and, being a Hindi – “albeit a naughty one, I married a Muslim” – was buried all alone.

I couldn’t sing his praises; no women allowed at the grave. In fact, when I got the news five hours after his death, he was already covered with red soil.

How politics have hurt the fight against Covid-19

MEC Bandile Masuku and Minister Zweli Mkhize visited Nasrec as part of monitoring state of readiness as COVID-19 cases increase in Gauteng and to support staff working during pandemic, 20 July 2020. Picture:Nigel Sibanda

Covid-19 has exposed how even governments as ostensibly liberal as South Africa’s can abuse their authority in times of crisis and how political power sometimes trumps the need to save lives.

This was the sentiment of analysts in the wake of the government facing political pressure to open up about its Covid-19 vaccination plan and policy.

‘Cyril’s shares have increased in pandemic’

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s political fortunes have risen and the ANC has benefitted from his personal handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, while he has managed to politically suffocate all other parties to emerge as a champion in the anti-pandemic fight.

This is the view of political economic analyst Zamakhaya Maseti, who was reflecting on the 300th day since the declaration of the Covid-19 lockdown.

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