Day 91 – Title-less

The sky is getting darker, the wind is blowing ever more strongly and the temperature is dropping ever so slowly.

There’s a storm front coming
White water running and the pressure is low
Storm front coming
Small craft warning on the radio

So sang Billy Joel. Mind you, he also famously claimed that

We didn’t start the fire

And as you will read below, that’s actually something I fully intend to do just now.

Yes, there’s another Cape cold front on the way in. It’s not a huge one, but it has been sitting just to our south west for a few hours now, teasing us about its imminent arrival. It’s coming in two parts: one today and one on Saturday. Much like the UK’s coronavirus problem, it seems likely that the second wave will be the worse of the two, but much like South Africa’s coronavirus problem, that assumes that we’ll make it through the initial wave first.

As ever, I have battened down the beagle and I will be lighting the fire presently. But I’m tired and I’ve been making silly mistakes all day. It wouldn’t surprise me if I have actually battened down the fire, so I will double-check before I stick a paraffin-laced cube of white stuff anywhere.

I’m listening to 6 Music on what would have been the prelude to the Glastonbury 2020 weekend. Obviously, that’s not happening for viral reasons, but they have been celebrating what has gone before and what would have been, with some really uplifting, joyful, positively emotive music.

I don’t think that the currently wonderful weather in the UK is helping those people who had tickets for the Festival this year either. It would have been fantastic. And while there’s obviously no substitute for actually being there, I would have still enjoyed watching it in big bold 4K, 6000 miles… away in front of a smouldering hound.

In the meantime, the last bits of online schooling before the staff and students of the kids’ school get a well-deserved week off, several household chores, a bit of football, some red wine.

See you tomorrow.

Day 84 – Happy, Not Happy

Mixed feelings (did you see the title of the post?) after last night’s football.

Happy (that’s the first bit) to see the return of Premier League football, albeit in weird, unsettling circumstances. And happy to get our first game out of the way: a wholly lacklustre affair at an empty Villa Park.

Not Happy, though (second bit now) about the goal that never was:

Just look at all those faces They know. All of them.

Clumsy, sure. Messy, maybe. Maybe undeserved, even. But they all count.

Or usually they do, anyway.

But despite the fact that this was way over the line, the technology didn’t pick it up.

Why?

Hawk-Eye (the company responsible for the goal line technology) later told us:

“During the first half of Aston Villa v Sheffield United match at Villa Park, there was a goal line incident where the ball was carried over the line by Aston Villa goalkeeper, No. 25 Nyland.

“The match officials did not receive a signal to the watch nor earpiece as per the Goal Decision System (GDS) protocol. The seven cameras located in the stands around the goal area were significantly occluded by the goalkeeper, defender, and goalpost. This level of occlusion has never been seen before in over 9,000 matches that the Hawk-Eye Goal Line Technology system has been in operation.

“The system was tested and proved functional prior to the start of the match in accordance with the IFAB Laws of The Game and confirmed as working by the match officials. The system has remained functional throughout. Hawk-Eye unreservedly apologises to the Premier League, Sheffield United, and everyone affected by this incident.”

Quite why it wasn’t then referred to VAR, no-one really knows, but that’s only fuelled the number of conspiracy theories going around about this which are now rivalling 5G, the moon landings (or lack of them) and Bill Gates inserting vaccine chips (or whatever) in all of us.

For this morning at least.

Because if that extra point keeps Villa up, it will cost another club tens of millions of pounds. And if those two lost points means that we don’t make the Champions League this season, that will cost us tens of millions of pounds.
Perennial Premier League favourites Man United will be chuffed though. Just saying.

Such are the implications and fine margins* of modern day football.

Of course, all this can be sorted out immediately by using the “definitive replay”. Because the goalie and the defender (and all the other players) can be removed from that image:

Sooo… Even if they were in the way, they won’t be once that is released.

When it is released. Then we’ll know. Any time now. Coming soon.

 

If, of course, it was switched on. *cough*

 

Onward. Upward. Newcastle on Sunday.

 

* this one wasn’t very fine

Day 83 – The WHO mask post

Much excitement online about this FB post from the WHO.

Here’s the image that came with it:

Apparently, this now means that [fictitious couple but we’ve all met them] Justin Whitebru and his obnoxious wife Karen are free to breathe all over everyone while they jog on the Sea Point Prom with their friends before breathing all over everyone at the coffee shop around the corner.

Actually no. Let’s unpack this for Justin, Karen et al. (Al is particularly keen to learn more.)

First off, a cartoon on the WHO Facebook page does not trump the local rules and regulations, which very clearly state:

And since the Constantia GreenBelt, the Sea Point Prom and all other public places where you might choose to exercise… are public places, that’s immediately game over for Justin and his “quick farve kay” buddies.

Let’s just summarise what we’ve learnt so far:

It doesn’t matter what you read on Facebook about not wearing masks while exercising, nor the authority of who posted it. The Disaster Management Act: Regulations: Alert level 3 during Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa state that you must wear a cloth facemask covering your mouth and nose while you are in a public place. 

Thanks for reading.

And because we’re clearly done here I should end it now, but like an irritating shopping channel, wait… there’s more!

Because I know that local rules and regulations don’t cut it for most people around here.

So here are some more words about this:

The main reason that we are required to wear masks when out and about is not to protect ourselves, but to protect those around us. No, sure, I know you know you don’t have the virus, Susan, because you washed your hands last Tuesday and you’ve been taking your supplements and all, but the fact is that you can be infectious while having absolutely no symptoms.

In fact, that’s one of the major problems we face in trying to overcome this pandemic.

Wearing a mask while you’re having your jog means that you are much less likely to spread the virus to other people. It’s been shown that your trail of aerosol droplets is likely to be far larger while you are running or cycling than if you were standing still or walking, and if you do have the virus, those droplets are likely to be full of it , just hanging around waiting for the next person to walk or run through it. Wearing a mask makes this cloud of nastiness much smaller.

Add to that the fact that we know that activities which involve breathing more deeply: singing, shouting… er… running and cycling, also tend to release more virus from an infected individual.
And that “one meter” that the WHO graphic suggests really isn’t going to help a great deal.

Thus, aside from being the law, mask wearing is also a moral obligation to protect the people you are running past. (Did you bring your morals with you today, Tamara?)

So that’s why you should wear a mask while exercising.
But let’s review the two main reasons that the WHO mentions above as to why you should NOT wear a mask while exercising.

1. “It makes it difficult to breathe” – Aww. Diddums.

“If you think that running with a mask on makes it difficult to breathe, you should try having Covid-19.”

Read the stuff I wrote above and get over yourself.

2. “It gets sweaty and promotes the growth of microorganisms” – wut?

Well sure, it will get sweaty and then you’ll simply wash it when you get home and it will be clean and ready to use again.

Yes, just like you do with your clothes.

If you don’t wash your mask when you’ve been wearing it (for whatever activity, but especially exercise), it will get nasty. If you don’t wash your clothes when you’ve been wearing them (for whatever activity, but especially exercise), they will get nasty.

You wouldn’t wear your running kit for n days in a row without washing it (although this may assist with social distancing), so don’t do it with your mask. And if you still want to try and apply this weird and feeble excuse for your not wearing a mask, then please also choose to run naked.

(But also, please don’t.)

The W in WHO stands for World, which means that they are trying to talk to almost 8 billion hugely diverse people in hugely diverse communities and situations around the planet about these things.

One size will not fit all.

I’m willing to accept that if you are dancing alone in the alpine meadows of Austria…

…you are less likely to infect anyone than if you are running through the heaving streets of downtown Manhattan; that if you are deep in the Patagonian wilderness vibing to your PsyTrance with only your camper van for company, you’re not going to spread the virus like you might if you were singing opera in a busy New Delhi marketplace. (We’ve all done it.)

And of course, the WHO can’t cover each and every individual situation. I do understand that. And for Maria, pictured above, mask wearing probably isn’t necessary. She can breathe easy and not get a sweaty face. But Maria is all on her own with just the meadow flora and mountain peaks for company, and first-world Austria is well past their peak of Covid-19 infections.

It’s not Cape Town.

And no matter what you may feel about the integrity and authority of the SA Government, and the WHO, scientifically speaking, the reasons given by the SA Government for wearing a mask while exercising are very good. The ones supplied by the WHO for not wearing a mask are frankly nonsensical.

So: if you’re exercising (or doing anything else), in South Africa right now – YOU NEED TO WEAR A MASK.

End of.

Day 78 – Numbers

Just a quick one here from me today, because there’s really not much that can be said or done about the situation we find ourselves in now, but I probably want to record it here so that when I look back on these crazy times, I can nod sagely and note that I recorded the situation here.

To call them a network of spies would be a bit over the top, but I have a number of people with whom I am in regular (electronic) contact, and who work in labs, clinics, hospitals and the like around Cape Town.

And none of them are saying that things are going well at the moment.

In fact, it seems that things are completely out of control.

While we are watching all of the Covid-19 numbers going through the metaphorical roof here, it would appear that it is far from the whole story.

People who have Covid-19 are not being tested: I’m hearing this from everyone, everywhere.

One individual working at a City clinic has told me that she estimates that only 1 in every 20 patients presenting there with Covid-19 symptoms is being tested for the disease at the moment. Only patients with proven co-morbidities and those over the age of 55 are eligible for testing. I’ve mentioned these “new” rules before in this post, but I didn’t know about the numbers that are being affected by these guidelines (put in place because there aren’t enough test kits to go around).

Let’s break for a few quick points here.

Firstly, this is only one person’s estimation at one clinic. But it’s a story I have heard often, and she’s experienced, she knows what she’s about and she is really not prone to exaggeration.
But sure, it is just her view at one clinic.

Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with assessing people clinically.

Doctors diagnosing TB have been doing clinical diagnoses at City clinics for ages, but with one notable difference – they test at the same time. The test result takes n days to come back, but the doctors, having seen what TB looks like in thousands of patients each year, know exactly what TB looks like, and can get the patient on treatment n days earlier than if they’d waited for the result. These days, n is much lower than it used to be, so it makes less of a difference, but I’m sure it’s saved a lot of infections and a lot of lives over the years.
But importantly, the reported number of TB patients remains accurate, because the TB test is done and recorded. (Ironically, Covid-19 will have a huge detrimental effect on the accuracy of the reported TB numbers for 2020, because patients aren’t turning up to clinics for testing and treatment, but that’s another story.)

Patients who present with clinical Covid-19 but don’t make the grade for testing are sent home and told to isolate for 14 days. That’s the same advice they would have been given if they had tested positive. So no change there.
But they won’t be counted as a positive, even though they almost certainly are, because we get our numbers from tests conducted, not patients seen and they were seen, but they weren’t tested.

Do they isolate? Hopefully, but maybe not.
Do they infect (or have they infected) other people who also can’t get tested? Likely, yes.
Do those people get counted as positives? No.
Do any of them die? Maybe. Probably.
If they do, are they counted as a Covid-19 death? Almost certainly not.

So when Covid-19 tests aren’t being done, we can’t rely on the numbers we’re seeing to make any informed decisions. But as I’ve said, the only important inference we can draw from this is that we’re completely overwhelmed, so there’s literally nothing more that can be done anyway, and we are all very well aware of that.

Thirdly, when you know that you’re not going to be tested, you don’t even present at the clinic. You’re feeling crap and you don’t want to hang around for hours in the cold for nothing. So essentially, that 5% that is being tested and which is the tip of the iceberg, is actually 5% of another tip of another iceberg.

Look, however you choose to view this, the upshot here is that we are far, far worse off than the official figures are – or ever will be – able to tell us. 

The system is so overwhelmed that it can’t tell us just how overwhelmed it is.

And we’ll probably never be able to prove this or say exactly how much worse off we actually are, which is irritating because in the future some people will suggest that this whole thing was a lot less severe than it actually was, and more seriously, we’ll not be able to learn important lessons which we would have used to set us up better to deal with the next viral pandemic.

South Africa is at a Covid-19 crossroads, and none of the roads are looking like good options right now.

Ironically, metaphorically and literally just staying right where we are might be our best option. Limiting the spread of the virus – especially at the time we are seeing the highest rate of infections ever – is hugely important.

If you can: Stay home, stay safe, make a difference. Please.

Images snipped from here.

Day 74 – A tweet about Italy

It’s weird.

We’re in the midst of a viral pandemic: one which has hit South Africa probably a couple of months after the country in which you might be reading this. (So I mean “now”). And yet, if it weren’t for the ongoing grumbling about not being able to buy cigarettes or inability to go to pubs and restaurants, you wouldn’t really know.

In Cape Town, people are meeting up with friends and family as if there’s nothing unusual going on. There are braais, walks, runs together – sometimes even with individuals in the well-publicised “vulnerable” demographics*. (Dafuq?!?) It looks like an entirely normal life, albeit one set against the backdrop of exponential infections, a struggling health service and a ever-steepening death rate.

And yet, the very first instruction in the Level 3 restrictions is:

You must remain at home at all times… 

It’s really not rocket surgery.

Social media is full of photos of people out and about with friends: sometimes masks on, sometimes masks off. But “it’s so uncomfortable to wear them all the time” and “you have to speak so loudly” and “it’s not like we’ve got the virus anyway” so I think that we can all guess what the situation is when the camera isn’t on.

What will it take for attitudes to change? Previously, I’ve guessed that it would be people being personally affected, but given the completely blasé approach from even well-educated, apparently intelligent people, I’m wondering if even that will have any effect.

So will attitudes change at all? Experience from other countries suggest that it would probably be a very good idea:

 

 

Sure, you can point to the numbers and the apparently extremely low chance you have of getting the virus, but remember that we’re so overwhelmed in Cape Town right now that we’re not even testing most people anymore (already a red flag, no?), and so you need to be aware that most local cases aren’t included in those figures anymore. And then there’s the “teeny tiny” death rate and the knowledge that most cases are mild, self-limiting, don’t kill you etc. I agree. It could give one an unfounded sense of security.

But in white SA, we’re (sadly) well used to other horrific health epidemics like TB and HIV, and those are problems which affect other cultures, not us**. We’re not used to having these problems in our houses and our immediate environs. So maybe this general indifference is because people think that this won’t affect them either.

Additionally, many of us are used to having decent private healthcare available whenever we need it via pricey health insurance packages. So maybe we need to have more than just numbers for “new positives” and “new deaths” each day. And since “didn’t die, but health was left so damaged that they’ll never be able to lead a normal life again” is a bit vague, maybe “available local hospital beds if you or one of your family gets sick” would be a good idea.

[Spoiler: Not very many right now. Likely even fewer tomorrow.]

Yes, yes, yes… I do recognise that I am banging my head against a wall. Shouting into the void. And I genuinely hope that you are not personally affected – whatever your behaviour over the lockdown period. But I don’t think that people understand how serious this is right now in our city, our province or our country. And I really don’t know how we change that.

 

* If you think this is about you, you’re probably right.

** I’m well aware that this is a gross oversimplification of a number of complex issues, but this post isn’t about them.