Well done, you!

As South Africa ends the last of its Covid restrictions, including the mask mandate (which most people have been ignoring anyway) and without any visible safety net in place, it’s well worth remembering that a simple government decree does not end an pandemic.

And I have to say that those anti-maskers claiming “victory” with lines like:

“After our two years of tireless campaigning…”

…do look very much like someone asserting that “Christmas came around in December again this year, thanks to our almost 12 month struggle with the authorities”. You can’t claim that you won if the thing you wanted to happen was going to happen anyway. What next? Taking credit for tomorrow’s sunrise?

And of course this was always going to happen. As I described in the link above, this is a natural (if premature) progression back to “normal life”. And whether or not you agree with the mask mandates, there’s plenty of evidence that they saved many thousands of lives. It’s also probably worth noting that you’ll likely be able to identify the epidemiologists and the microbiologists in your local supermarket or other crowded indoor space, because they’ll be the ones still choosing to wear a mask.

I’m not saying that there will be any sudden huge rise in case numbers. We’re sitting nicely in the trough at the end of the fifth wave. What I am saying is that because of the lack of rules on masking now, when the time comes again that there is Covid around in the community, it will spread much more quickly and easily. And that won’t be a good thing.

So why now? What suddenly changed?
Surely only a cynic would suggest that they might have rushed the big news of the scrapping of the regulations to coincide with the release of the final part of the State Capture report which was hugely critical of the ANC government, including the role of the current president.

Not that I’m that distrustful*.

* I absolutely am.

Next cold front coming

More “Damaging winds” and “Disruptive rain” are expect today and this evening. The wind is already here, and while it hasn’t done any damage yet (that I know about, at least), you can see how it might, because it is quite strong and gusty. And those are two of the main attributes of wind that can cause damage. On the plus side, we did get a beautiful pre-frontal sunrise this morning, which my phone did its best to capture:

But didn’t really do it justice.

This cold front is not going to be as big as the last one, which – for the record – deposited a total of 154mm of rain into our back garden. That’s a lot, given that our annual rainfall here is 1150mm.
It also raised the Cape Town dam levels by a very welcome 5%. I’ve been doing some rudimentary calculations and that means that over the past few days, the net inflow into the dams comes in at 44,911,050,000 litres or 45 billion litres, give or take.

Your occasional reminder that a small percentage of a very big number is still a very big number.

According to my best sources, the rain will begin at about 8pm, peak around dawn tomorrow (poor Dawn), and continue on and off for most of Saturday, ruining any local rugby matches that you couldn’t buy tickets for anyway. Sunday, on the other hand, looks like it will be full of equal amounts of sunshine and freezing temperatures.

Have a lovely weekend.

The Gravity Well of Social Media decline

It’s amazing to watch how someone intelligent, well-qualified, erudite and seemingly sensible can be dragged from their lofty perch into the depths of conspiracy theories, wild accusations, dodgy political affiliations and suggestions, and general weirdness. And it’s interesting to see how this decline gathers pace and the theories get more bizarre as the downward spiral progresses.

Like coins whirling around a gravity well. (You’ll know it when you see it.)

Yes, like that. Starting quietly and smoothly, seemingly all under control, but gradually getting faster and faster and more and more frantic before plunging into the big black hole.

It could have started with a little thing: maybe annoyance at CNN for alleged misreporting of any given incident, or perhaps their city council for not fixing a thing that they were supposed to. Before you know it, the US election was stolen and the mayor is a corruption-ridden gangster. And once we’ve done Trump and local politics, there’s Covid lockdowns and mask mandates. And suddenly we’re deep into accusing Hilary Clinton of paedophilia and delving ever deeper into the anti-vaxxer rabbit hole.

In a way, I think I understand the causes. It’s easy to feel powerless and unheard in this modern world. Like you’re the only one telling the truth, but no-one is listening as you scream into the abyss. And then, you find someone who tells you that they agree with you and you discover kinship and you begin to support their ideas too. Then there’s a group and suddenly, there’s strength in numbers, even when all they’re shouting out is complete bullshit.

It’s interesting to note a couple of things about this decline into insanity, though. Firstly, the way the information is shared by these people can often be very subtle. A quiet retweet, the sharing of a post, the mention of a controversial theory: nothing direct, nothing explicit. Almost like they know that they would be ridiculed if they outwardly and openly expressed their feelings or beliefs on the subject. And secondly, the limit of just how far they will go: there’s almost always an invisible line they won’t cross at the far-out nonsense of chemtrails and a flat earth.

Professor Timothy Cookbook is a prime example of both these approaches. But then there is plenty that he’s said and done that is every bit as bad as telling us that 5G is a New World Order plan to depopulate the planet, so we really shouldn’t applaud him for tacitly agreeing that yes, we all live on a big ball.

It’s almost funny to see these individuals spouting statements each one more desperate, more nonsensical and more demonstrably incorrect than the last, but of course there’s a serious side to it as well. Because when less intelligent, well-qualified, erudite and sensible people see educated, popular individuals saying these things, they may well choose to believe them. Well, of course you would, because these people are intelligent, well-qualified, erudite and sensible, so they must know what they’re talking about, right?

“With great power comes great responsibility”, sure. But sadly, with great power also comes great power, and that does seem to be all they actually care about. Because you must also understand that when everything goes to shit with the able assistance of these “thoughtleaders”, they’re not the ones who will suffer. They all have their comfortable lives and their escape plans.

We’re living in an ever more divided world, with viewpoints and opinions instantaneously amplified by social media echo chambers that support our every utterance and immediately decry and attack any dissenting voice. There’s no hope of rational argument or anyone’s mind being changed. Everyone is entrenched and knows their “truth”.

The only difference being that some of it is backed up by facts, and the rest is just a single tweet away from agreeing that the Lizard People and the Rothschilds are running the (flat) planet.

Remember this? You wouldn’t do it now.

Yesterday evening, I was randomly reminded of this post from December 2019: just BTV in South Africa (officially, anyway).

It was a truly odd thing to read back then (as I think I ably explained at the time), but since other world events [gestures wildly around] since that day, it’s taken on a whole new meaning. Because:

“When was the last time you touched a monkey?”

was a really creepy and wholly off-putting chat-up line 2½ years ago. Now, it sounds like more of a basic risk assessment. And weirdly, because of that, also a great deal more reasonable question to ask.

In context, of course.

So it’s not that I’m suggesting you approach anyone anywhere and question them about their recent history regarding simian contact, but if the topic of monkeys was to come up in an otherwise normal conversation, then just checking out how recently they had touched a monkey could assist you in making some smart decisions about a) whether the conversation should continue further, and b) if so, at what sort of distance.

So yes, there are probably more potential positives – one – to this question now than there were back in December 2019, but I would definitely still refrain from even considering this as any sort of ice breaker in a social setting.

Massive study suggests that masks cut coronavirus transmission by 19%

And when I say “massive”, I mean n = 20,000,000.
I mean 92 regions across 6 continents.
With some really novel and sensible statistical work on all those phat, delicious data cakes.

And when I say “19%”, I mean… well… 19%. But that’s a fair chunk as well.

Remembering that the means to getting out of this pandemic are multi-factorial, and follow the “Swiss Cheese” approach:

…whereby none of the measures we try will be 100% effective (some maybe not even close), but using several methods together, we can really limit the spread of infection.

It doesn’t seem like rocket science (because it quite literally isn’t) to work out that somehow limiting the range of someone’s exhalations will result in a reduction in transmission of a virus which we transmit when we breathe out. And yet mask mandates, such as they were observed anyway (something which this study allows for), are being dropped all over the world as we attempt to return to normal life, and to “live with the virus”.

This move was always coming – it has/had to – and I’m all for that return to normal life, but there really doesn’t seem to be any allowance made for the huge morbidity (and yes, the ongoing mortality) from Covid-19. Not just “Long Covid”: no, I’m still not back to full health, 11 months, almost R100,000 of medical expenses and 4 cardiac screenings on from my infection.

We’re still finding new ways in which this virus is affecting the health of people post infection, and many of them are debilitating, chronic conditions: effects on the immune system, diabetes, cardiac conditions etc. Which raises the questions of how many more syndromes related to Covid-19 infection we still don’t know about, and how we plan to deal with the burden on our healthcare systems:

Yes. Like that.

So while I completely understand (and support) a return to whatever passed for “normal life” BTV, sadly (and unpopularly), I don’t think we’re actually ready for that just yet, and it would be very sensible to continue to do everything in our power to limit transmission of the virus until we actually know what else it has in store for us.