Day 278, part 2 – Mentality

OK. Quick post here to clear my mind. (Or as quick as I can with the internet crawling under the weight of several (or more) holidaymakers.)

Last night, the President spoke once again and raised the lockdown back up to Level 3. I’m not saying that locking down is a good thing or necessarily even the right thing to do, but it is clear that he had to do something. To be fair, it was actually a speech in which he told the nation off like we were a group of naughty children. And while that might irritate a great number of people (and it did, with many of them fitting the stereotype), the fact is that too many people are behaving like naughty children. We were given the chance to take measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and we (overall, as a collective), ignored it and continued with our daily (and nightly) lives unabated.

If it was difficult stuff, like you had to cut off the fingers of your first born or pour washing up liquid into your eyes to help slow the spread, then you might understand people not complying. But it’s putting a piece of cloth over a bit of your face and it’s staying away from people.

And we couldn’t even manage that. It’s actually rather embarrassing.

For that reason, amongst other things, our local beach (150m down there [points]) is now closed.
We can look, but we can’t touch. This makes me very sad (and quite annoyed), but it’s been coming for a while.

And yet already, the local Whatsapp group is buzzing with ideas to circumvent the regulations. If you have a fishing permit, you can access the beach (as long as you are also fishing). And that’s a great example of exactly the mentality that’s got us to where we are right now. Local residents who have lived here for years and years are now off to the local post office to get their ticket to the beach. Instead of noting that there’s clearly an issue which needs to be resolved, and staying away from public areas for a couple of weeks, people are actively looking for ways to go and sit next to each other on the shoreline.

Sure. You’ll ask me why anyone would trust this government. They are far from perfect.
But are people that blinkered that they can’t see past their need to break the rules or snub the government and see the huge viral pandemic which is literally killing hundreds of ordinary folk just like them, every day right now?

Here’s another example from Facebook – from before last night’s speech. I’ve removed the guy’s name. I’m not sure if he knew he was quoting a local right-wing, anti-mask covid-denier, but whatever.

First off, there has to be a dividing line for any rule or regulation.

“On the right is 17 years and 364 days old. On the left, 18 years old.
Such clever alcohol this, our government thinks it knows the difference.”

said no-one ever, despite it being a completely arbitrary boundary that we have lived with all our lives.

But aside from that…

I’m not saying that there is any danger or risk in how those people are gathered on the lagoon on the left. But instead of choosing to understand that there was a reason that they weren’t allowed to gather on the beach on the right, they simply chose to just gather somewhere else close by.
In this case, it’s not the virus being “clever”, it’s the people being obtuse.
And if you can’t see that, then I don’t think you are being very “clever”, either.

Precisely because of this mentality, we literally have to be spoon-fed each and every rule. So now – and perhaps even because of this well-circulated image – the regulations have been extended to include rivers, dams and lakes. And then people will complain that the rules are too complicated or pernickety. But it’s really not that hard.

Ramaphosa’s speech last night included these lines:

We can only weather this storm if we immediately and fundamentally change our mindsets.
Compliance with the health regulations should not be simply about fearing the wrath of the law.
It should not be about reluctant observance or peer pressure.
This is about common sense.
It is about taking responsibility for our own health and the health of others.

But common sense and taking responsibility are not things that happen in this country, where a red traffic light is taken as merely a suggestion and the law is completely disregarded when it doesn’t suit us to follow it. It was already happening in Cape Town this morning.

There will be no change in mindset, despite the personal and/or collective consequences.

And because of that, there will be thousands more completely unnecessary deaths.

Day 268 – Problematic Simon

Big news (it’s not that big) released last night by the Health Minister and his scientific friends is that we’re apparently under siege from a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Dr Mkhize spoke yesterday evening and, I think, did a very good job of explaining what the 501.V2 Variant is, how it was detected and what it means for the fight against Covid-19 in SA.

But then there was this:

I don’t usually listen to washed-up political hasbeens (you had your chance), but this tweet irritated me.

The line “I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but…” is akin to the old favourite “I’m not racist, but…” and is always, always the prefix to either a conspiracy theory or something overtly racist.

And Simon doesn’t let us all down (for once) by immediately spouting a ridiculous conspiracy theory.

Note: the “Genuine Question” bit at the start is not a disclaimer or an excuse.

This shouldn’t happen. Supposedly intelligent individuals shouldn’t be sharing their drunken thoughts in a public forum. It’s fortunate that the only people really listening to Simon at this point are the ones that no-one else really listens to, and so this uneducated, desperately foolish rhetoric will hopefully die quickly in his little echo chamber.

If you are tempted to tweet an utterly stupid conspiracy theory to your followers, then please do as Simon did, and tell us up front that you “don’t usually subscribe to this sort of thing” or some such, so that we can all save our time and simply ignore whatever follows.

Or better still, rather than vomiting your nonsense across social media, just quietly ask someone with a brain to gently explain it to you, thus preventing you from looking like a prize arse in front of the whole country.

Day 267, part 2 – An even easier way

We have – repeatedly – been through the ways that you can avoid infection and avoid infecting others with Covid-19, but there always seems to be some good reason silly excuse which means that you can’t follow through and actually do them, doesn’t there?

Wash your hands regularly

But my hands get so dry.
I have very sensitive skin, see? I get it from my mother’s side.

Wear a mask

It’s so hard to breath through a mask though, isn’t it?
And the rebreathing of all the carbon monoxide. So dangerous. So very dangerous.

Maintain a decent social distance

I’m just, like, a really tactile person. Like, I always have been.
I literally just need to hug everyone. I get it from my mother’s side.

Avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces

Look, sure, my favourite bar is very small and has no windows.
But there are Happy Hour specials on vodka cocktails all this week!

I know, I know. It’s really not easy to alter your behaviour in order to protect other people.

But here’s a great plan and you don’t actually have to do anything at all. Quite literally.

If you are feeling unwell, just stay at home. 

This one has been on all the posters and the emails and everything else that you have seen and been sent, but it doesn’t make the headline advice because it’s clearly just so obvious.

Not rocket surgery.

Sadly, with hindsight, it seems that assumption might have been something of a misjudgement on our part. [sigh]

And so from now on, can we add this seemingly most straightforward of advice to the short list above?

Thanks so much.

Day 266 – None of it is good news

With bugs and diseases like TB or Measles or HIV, we don’t often learn much new significant stuff anymore. That’s mainly because we already know a lot of stuff about those bugs and diseases and so there’s less unknown stuff to learn. But it’s also there’s less research being concentrated into those bugs and diseases (which again is possibly because we already know so much about them).

SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 don’t fit that bill. They’re new, we’re (desperately) researching them in great detail and we’re learning new things every day.

Seemingly, none of it is good news.

I’ve mentioned many times on this blog that the governments dealing with Covid-19 often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. There are no easy answers here: what might work well in one place won’t necessarily work well somewhere else. Countries are different; their economies, cultures, populations and population densities are different. And this is all new.
There is no one right way to deal with this pandemic. Equally, something is going to have to give: you sacrifice lives or the economy, depending on how you choose trying to manage the pandemic in any given place. And while that might seem like a no-brainer at first, sacrificing the economy will also cost lives in some form or other. It’s important to understand that it’s not a zero-sum game and it’s also important to remember that this is a virus that is going to kill some people.
Sad and blunt, but true. If you are criticising those in charge because of each and every death – devastating as each one is – you’re simply being obtuse.

That’s not to say that this couldn’t have been better managed. Of course it could and hopefully, if this ever happens again, we will have learned from the mistakes that were made this time around. Some of which were unavoidable, and some of which, well…

…seem inexcusable.

Sweden, once lauded for its “softly softly” approach to dealing with Covid-19, is back under the spotlight, and for all the wrong reasons. While it was being lauded in the early part of the pandemic for taking a different path, by July, it was already clear that it hadn’t worked:

The pay off was meant to be apparent when the second wave came around: with so many infections, would there be a degree of herd immunity and a much lighter caseload?

No.

And suddenly, those claiming that Sweden’s approach was the way to go:

have seemingly quietly moved on to other nonsense.

While those who are usually very quiet about… well… everything, have chosen to speak out at just how badly the government there have handled the pandemic:

Again, I’m not blaming any government for their stance on dealing with Covid-19. But I feel strongly that it’s important that those who supported Sweden’s approach and insisted that it was working when all the figures showed us otherwise, shouldn’t now be allowed to just brush their mistakes under the carpet and try to advise us on how we should be dealing with the situation in which we find ourselves.

Our hospitals are full and according to some reports, some difficult decisions are now having to be made on criteria for admission to ICU beds. At times of stress and overcrowding, these decisions often have to be made, but if the cutoff age that I have seen quoted (38) is correct, then we are clearly in a very, very dire situation. And of course, that’s not just for Covid-19 cases. If you are involved in a car accident today in Cape Town and you need an ICU bed, well, that’s probably not going to happen.

Across the pond, new evidence has come to light that yes, while death from Covid-19 is predominantly amongst the older population, that’s not an exclusive club:

Young adults are dying at historic rates. In research published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we found that among U.S. adults ages 25 to 44, from March through the end of July, there were almost 12,000 more deaths than were expected based on historical norms.

In fact, July appears to have been the deadliest month among this age group in modern American history. Over the past 20 years, an average of 11,000 young American adults died each July. This year that number swelled to over 16,000.

It’s a lot of young lives lost. And the tragic thing is that so many of those deaths will have been avoidable. Simple steps like wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly, avoiding close contact and crowded or indoor spaces can hugely reduce your risk of contracting or spreading SARS-CoV-2.

But all that has been said until we’re blue in the face (from frustration and exertion, rather than inadequate oxygen saturation) and yet still not many people seem to think it applies to them.

I could understand that as we started this journey, it all seemed so surreal. But what I don’t quite get is how people can still think that this is a problem for someone else. I’ve often mused over what it will take for these people to realise that it might affect them too. Sadly (or weirdly, maybe thankfully?) the second wave of infections seems to be hitting a lot closer to home for a lot of people – I personally know at least 20 people affected in the last week alone – and maybe that will be a bit of a reality check.

As I mentioned yesterday, we’re going to just hunker down for the next few weeks. If you’re reading this in SA and you are also lucky enough to have the option to do the same, I’d strongly advise it.

Day 265 – The last bit of real life?

For a while, at least? Maybe.

Holidays start today in SA. Not officially, and not for everyone, but The Day of Reconciliation (that was today) does generally mark some sort of beginning to the summer holiday season.

The festive period is always a bit weird: it’s hot and sunny, which it clearly shouldn’t be at Christmas time and all our routines are swept away for a few weeks: Kids at home. Me at home. Dog at home. Wife at work. Playdates, restaurants, shopping, general socialising.

Fun.

This year: nope. It’s everybody at home (even though the wife is still at work). We’ve got a couple of (outdoor, socially-distanced) things that still have to be done and then and we’re all holing up as the second wave hits Cape Town. Early days, but it does already appear to be much more severe than our initial problems in May, June and July.

President Ramaphosa swung into action once again with targeted measures aimed mainly at reducing superspreader events. And I get it – to a certain extent – but once again, there does seem to be a degree of irrationality when 100 people are still allowed to gather indoors, but all the beaches in KZN, the Eastern Cape (definitely outdoors – I’ve been there) and the Garden Route are closed.

Better policing and enforcement of the regulations would be a much better way of going about things, but our police force is understaffed, overwhelmed, dysfunctional and aggressive. And while I can understand why you can’t just close some of the beaches in a given area (because then everyone would just go to the ones that were open), this is a lazy catch-all which has understandably angered many people – and merely driven everyone to other venues in the tourist areas: at least some of which will be indoors.

In KZN, the beaches are only closed on those days on which the majority of poorer people traditionally go there. And yes, the beaches on those days are horrifically overcrowded and would likely be very unsafe from a Covid point of view, those people are now going to stay in their horrifically overcrowded residential areas which are very unsafe from a Covid point of view. This doesn’t help much at all.

We’re in the Western Cape, where our beaches are still open – bizarrely only between 9am and 6pm – concentrating the crowds as much as possible. But it’s unlikely that we’ll be spending much time there.

It’s going to be a surreal summer: no extended family, limited travel, no socialising.

It’s a pain. It’s sad. It’s irritating. But it is just one year.