Called it

Remember this post from last week, expressing disbelief and dismay at the alleged plans to spend R22 million on a Big Flag?

The Government said:

This has the potential to unite people as it becomes a symbol of unity and common identity.
The project is envisaged to contribute towards nation-building and social cohesion. 

And I said:

Well, guess what happened?

This week, pisspoor Minister (apologies for the tautology) Nathi Mthethwa launched the Big Plan for a Big Flag, and the nation – all built and socially cohesed – turned around together as one and told him to Tsek.

Now, having “taken note of public discourse” (which was basically a collection of suggestions, generally ending with the word “off”) and:

In upholding these ethos and the inalienable rights of citizens to be heard, the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture has directed his department to review the process related to the Monumental Flag in its totality.

Now, this is actually a Good Thing. It is very unusual for a Minister or any member of government to actually give a toss what the public think. And that’s because those ministers and members of government are safe, privileged and untouchable. They don’t have to listen, because there are no consequences whatsoever for them not listening.

So Mthethwa apparently hearing the er… “discourse”, and actually having some sort of reaction – albeit merely “reviewing the process” at this point – is to be applauded.

The real acid tests come when: 1. there is a reasonable outcome to the review – and that doesn’t necessarily mean that the project is dropped: maybe they find private sponsorship for it, for example; 2. the next time something like this crosses Nathi’s desk, he remembers this situation and says “no” before it goes any further; and 3. any other Minister looks at this situation and Mthethwa’s reaction, and chooses to listen to the public regarding their feelings on any given project or idea as well.

Optimistic people may think that this could be a watershed moment.
The realists amongst us have already drunk half our glass and we’re ordering a brandy chaser to deal with the inevitable disappointment.

More microbiology news

I hinted at a bit of a viral revival just yesterday, but I wasn’t quite expecting the rest of microbiology’s greatest villians to kick in just yet. Still, they did.

Monkeypox goes Iberian:

Portuguese authorities have confirmed five cases and are investigating another 15 suspected cases. In a statement on Wednesday, Portugal’s health ministry said the cases it had detected – all in the Lisbon and Tagus Valley region – had all involved men whose symptoms included ulcerative lesions.

While in Madrid:

“Generally speaking, monkeypox is spread by respiratory transmission, but the characteristics of the eight suspected cases point towards fluid contact,” the spokesperson said.

Fernando Simón, an epidemiologist who heads Spain’s health emergencies centre, said while it was unlikely that monkeypox would spread significantly, “that can’t be ruled out”.

Salmonella in Belgian Chocolate:

Obviously not a virus, but still small and nasty, so it fits here.
This one has been going for a while now, but an updated report means that we can include it in this week’s microbiology news. Belgium chocolate is known for its quality and its creamy, luxurious taste, and now also for containing Salmonella typhimurium ST34. Delicious.

Cases, which have now started to decrease, stood at 324 (including both probable and confirmed) in the EU/EEA and the UK, as of 18 May 2022. They have been reported in twelve EU/EEA countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden), the UK, Switzerland, Canada, and USA.

Polio in Mozambique:

Awful news about the first wild poliovirus infection in Moz in over 30 years.

The case was diagnosed in a child in the northeastern province of Tete, it said. “The detection of another case of wild poliovirus in Africa is greatly concerning, even if it’s unsurprising given the recent outbreak in Malawi,” WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti said.
Poliomyelitis – the medical term for polio – is an acutely infectious and contagious viral disease which attacks the spinal cord and causes irreversible paralysis in children.

The virus was tracked back to the outbreak in Malawi from a strain originally circulating in Pakistan. Local countries are now desperately trying get all their children vaccinated before there is any further spread.

Corona continues:

No handy news report to go with this one, but despite the numbers starting to drop in SA, there have been three five more confirmed cases in people I know in the last 24 hours.

Image

I’d love to see the provincial data: it’s my feeling that a significant decline from the previously high numbers in Gauteng might be masking a steady (or even slightly increasing) case load in the Western Cape. Certainly anecdotally, we’re feeling a bit surrounded by it again. A reminder to please act sensibly and responsibly because this clearly isn’t done yet.

And obviously, a get well soon to those in question. You know who you are.

And that’s it for today this particular hour as far as microbiology news goes. Join us again tomorrow for more happy happy joy joy fun and games as thousands of people get sick thanks to various germs, disease and infection.

Not now, Monkeypox!

Haven’t we all had enough of viruses? Even I am getting a little fed up of them, and I love the damn things. So when news comes out of yet another weird virus taking a hold in London (and Newcastle!), I’m wondering if we could actually just have a few months when nothing microbiologically odd occurs.

Please.

This outbreak is currently sitting at 7 known cases. At least one case is known to have travelled from Nigeria recently, and the most recent four are all in men who self-identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (MSM). That the authorities are considering sexual transmission as a route of infection is quite something, given that that’s never been described before.

Anyone with concerns that they could be infected with monkeypox is advised to make contact with clinics ahead of their visit. We can assure them their call or discussion will be treated sensitively and confidentially.

Monkeypox doesn’t spread well in humans, and the UKHSA seems to be well on top of things, so it’s highly unlikely that we will be facing a new pandemic because of this, but honestly, what has the virological world got in store for us next?

Flagpole

I’m still not completely convinced that this isn’t a late April Fools joke.

Because while in a country with no money, massive social and economic issues, no electricity, widespread poverty and rampant unemployment, it doesn’t seem like making a joke about the government spending R22,000,000 on a big flag would be particularly amusing, it’s also exactly the sort of thing that the government would actually do.

And that wouldn’t be funny either.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I see all the arguments they’ve made:

The flag, as the brand image of the country, needs to be highly recognised by the citizens.
This has the potential to unite people as it becomes a symbol of unity and common identity.
The project is envisaged to contribute towards nation-building and social cohesion. 

But I would say that about 100% of the citizens already recognise the flag. And I’d also say that our shared experiences of things like loadshedding and unchecked government corruption are more likely to unite us and be a symbol of our common identity than this project. And that being the case, I’m sure that the spending of this R22 million will absolutely encourage nation-building and social cohesion, as the citizenry come together as one to ask the burning question:

What the actual fuck are you doing spending R22 million on a flag?
Just. Stop.

So is this whole story just a joke? I don’t get it. At all.

Next week, South Africa spends R49million on a giant hamster.
(I just made that up, so it’s probably not going to happen.) (Probably.)

An easy opportunity to use a gif that was already in my media library

Yesterday (well, just before midnight on the day before yesterday, if we’re being precise), the government issued an extension of sorts to the temporary amendment that it had previously made last month regarding the wearing of masks in public places.

This made a lot of those people very annoyed, but it was actually a good diversion for them to avoid talking about the USA exceeding 1,000,000 (one million) Covid deaths. And even that is a wild underestimation, according to many sources. Just like the flu, they said. But it’s really not.

Anyway, aside from the sleight of hand, the only other bit of good news for those people was that the press release about the extension seemed to suggest that students would no longer have to wear masks in schools. This didn’t make any sense – especially along the other guidelines that were in the same gazette – but since when has this (or any) government ever made any sense?

Anyway, that was the situation until the early afternoon, when someone at the Department of Health finally woke up and realised that there had been an error, and told the country that actually, students would have to wear masks in their classrooms after all.

Wow. The metaphorical cat was placed right among the allegorical pigeons with that announcement.

And lo, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. But it was this hysterical tweet that stood out for me:

Because obviously, I immediately thought of this gif:

And though I have no idea what about the appearance of the individual who came out with those question above, my mind will now always associate them with Helen Lovejoy.

Look, the fact is that anyone can go to their local police station and lay a charge against the Department of Health if they wish. So why leave it for someone else, since you clearly feel so upset? Why wouldn’t you go and do it yourself if you think a crime has been committed? For that to go much further though, that Department needs to have broken some sort of law, which in this case would be… would be… er… “being a bit vague in a late night press release”?

Oh my. Proper Death Row, Throw Away The Key Stuff there.

In the meantime, masks remain for indoor spaces, schools or otherwise, and the numbers – probably affected by two public holidays and a long weekend and Covid fatigue, as mentioned here:

– continue to rise:

Ventilate, vaccinate, mask up, stay safe. And won’t somebody please think of the children?

Thanks.