Avatar photo

By Sydney Majoko

Writer


Revisit effective anti-virus measures as cases spread fast

Knee-jerk reactions must be avoided at all costs now. Politicians must avoid trying to do what appears right and do what is effective – and that requires cool heads.


The moment that South Africa has been dreading is fast approaching. The coronavirus pandemic spread is approaching the levels last seen in some badly hit European countries more than two months ago. The biggest daily jump of 10 000 confirmed cases edging the country towards the 200 000 mark sent panic waves through government leaders and murmurs of a return to a hard lockdown began doing the rounds. Gauteng health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku has been hinting at an intermittent hard lockdown to contain the spread of the virus in the province. Can the province or the country handle a…

Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism

Access PREMIUM news, competitions
and exclusive benefits

SUBSCRIBE
Already a member? SIGN IN HERE

The moment that South Africa has been dreading is fast approaching. The coronavirus pandemic spread is approaching the levels last seen in some badly hit European countries more than two months ago.

The biggest daily jump of 10 000 confirmed cases edging the country towards the 200 000 mark sent panic waves through government leaders and murmurs of a return to a hard lockdown began doing the rounds. Gauteng health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku has been hinting at an intermittent hard lockdown to contain the spread of the virus in the province. Can the province or the country handle a return to level 5, where only essential services are allowed?

The government’s unenviable mission since the beginning of this lockdown has been to strike a balance between saving lives and keeping the economy going just enough so the country does not collapse. With over 100 days of lockdown experience, it is now obvious that saving lives in a pandemic in a society as unequal as South Africa is an extreme sport.

As statistics showed earlier in the Western Cape, the virus thrives in densely populated areas like Tygerberg, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Nyanga. It is the same in Gauteng, with Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane’s densely populated townships being the hardest hit.

The question that needs to be answered is what would a return to a hard lockdown achieve? South Africa’s biggest lesson coming out of this pandemic must be that there is no use in enacting laws that cannot be enforced. People in densely populated areas are not flouting social distancing regulations by choice, but out of necessity. There is a section of the population that refuses to obey laws, but the majority in these areas simply cannot live in cramped conditions for prolonged periods without venturing out. Add to that the burden of hunger.

What is easily overlooked in the much publicised squabble between head of the South African Medical Research Council Professor Glenda Gray and Dr Zweli Mkhize’s health department is that it started after Gray highlighted that there had been a spike in malnutrition admissions at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital children’s unit during the lockdown.

Malnutrition had not been seen in decades before this lockdown. This case might sound like an isolated one because it led to a high-level disagreement in government, but if children were starving in Soweto during Level 5 lockdown, children were starving elsewhere in SA’s poor areas. And starving people move to look for money and food. Covid-19 relief grants will help but are not enough.

The coronavirus numbers will shoot through the roof as predicted by the scientists assisting the National Coronavirus Command Council. The health system will be overwhelmed, as already witnessed by some hospitals diverting patients to other hospitals because they are full.

Knee-jerk reactions must be avoided at all costs now. Different parts of the world are reinstating measures that worked earlier in their fight against the pandemic. That’s what SA needs to do. Hasty decisions will lead to SA losing both battles, failing to save lives and a tattered economy.

Politicians must avoid trying to do what appears right and do what is effective – and that requires cool heads.

Sydney Majoko.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.

Read more on these topics

Columns Coronavirus (Covid-19 Lockdown

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits