This year’s matric Rage may become the ground zero for the 4th wave of Covid. This, says Medicare24 chief executive Mike van Wyk, is likely to happen despite what he calls “vanilla” safety measures.
Last year, the annual rite of passage for school leavers became notorious as a superspreader event.
It was also the genesis of the second wave that re-flattened the economy, flatlined patients and confined us to our homes.
According to its website, Matric Rage takes place in Ballito from 30 November – 6 December, Plettenberg Bay between 3-6 and 8-11 December with Jeffreys Bay festivities to be confirmed.
This year organisers say festival-goers must be fully vaccinated to gain entry or alternatively undergo frequent antigen tests to prove they are Covid-negative.
“But being vaccinated does not mean you cannot contract the disease, it only means you’ll likely end up getting a lightweight version of it and not die,” says Van Wyk.
“And how would it be possible to effectively control such a vast number of people and police access and engagement, particularly outside of the festival?
“It’s possible to contract the virus now, go and party and only test positive a day or two later.”
What happens in-between, is the question.
Chenielle, 19, matriculated last year and despite many overtures, her parents refused participation in the event. “I now see why,” she says.
“I went to an event a little while back and the moment people start having a good time and dancing, the dangers of Covid are forgotten. I would rather stay home and protect my family. I do not want to be the person to share this unwanted gift.”
She advises other teenagers to do the same and not be part of the crew that sparks the 4th wave.
On its website, Rage organisers place great emphasis on safety, noting last year’s infection-fest as “regrettable”.
It further reads: “For 2021, all attendees will be required to show proof of their government-approved Covid vaccine.
“Furthermore, rapid antigen testing will be widely used to ensure the safety of staff, attendees and loved ones at home. Every attendee will be required to have a rapid antigen test every two days before entry is granted.”
“Every staff member will be tested daily before entry. The tests are a gentle nasal swab type, WHO (World Health Organisation) and Sahpra (SA Health Products Regulatory Authority) approved tests by a registered medical practitioner.”
“All test costs are covered by the festival.”
Clinical associate Zaandre Hitzeroth says there’s no question there is a fourth wave coming.
“If you look at the population of South Africa, the number of vaccinations completed is still less than 12% of the population, so levels are extremely low,” he says.
“Taking that into consideration, there’s still another 80% that still needs the jab before we come close to herd immunity.”
Hitzeroth says if he was a parent, he’d not let his kids wander off to the coast for the party.
“The risk is just too large. The alert level 1 does not mean Covid has gone away. It just means the number of infections at present is at a lower level, allowing more economic sectors and activities to open up to more people,” he says.
“But it may just be the calm before the storm. It is of absolute importance that South Africans remain vigilant and responsible, not just for themselves, but for the sake of everyone, for the greater good of our people.”
The matric Rage website states that the event “will only proceed with the support and permission of the relevant officials in the cities in which we operate” and will be “extremely” limited.
“In the event that the festival cannot proceed, all Passport (festival ticket) holders will receive a 90% refund.”