Day 60 – Good morning

Not just a salutation, but also a description of how my pre-9am period has gone.

So let’s run through the happy stuff for once, shall we?

A really cool quiz last night. I’ve been quizzing for 25 years, and I played rounds I’d never done before – novel stuff. It’s made me look at how I’ve been writing quizzes during lockdown and thinking about how to break the mould. Some really good ideas, even for regular stuff like music and geography.

There was Cyril’s speech. He was on time for once, nogal. And finally, a meaningful relaxation on the lockdown, countrywide, from June 1. As predicted/hoped for here:

If the purpose was to ready the healthcare system, then whether or not we managed to do that, there is very limited purpose in keeping the lockdown on: even in Cape Town, capital of the African branch of the pandemic.

Alcohol, yes – under strict conditions. Tobacco, no – which still rankles, even as a non-smoker. Exercise when you want. Stay at home if you don’t have to go out.

But we’re getting there. This was overdue.

Overnight, the first decent storm of the winter season. Over an inch of rain, 80kph winds whistling around the house even now.

Love it. Not every day, obviously, but there’s something so cleansing about a good storm, washing away the leaves, the dirt and in this case – metaphorically, at least – the virus.

And I went out for a run in this.

It. Was. Amazing.

It may have been my favourite run ever. No worries about aresholes with no masks, because there was no-one sensible enough to be out in the gales and the rain, and even if there had have been, the wind would likely have dispersed all their infectious exhalations anyway.

Link I said: cleansing.

That fifth kilometre. Downhill. Fast*. Alone. Such a fantastic feeling of freedom.
I really needed that.

It feels like we’ve turned a bit of a corner. The virus is still wreaking havoc out there, but we are at least a bit more on top of the things that we can control.

 

* 4:32. fast for me. 

Day 59 – Another address

Not me. I’m very much still at the same address.

Quiz news: We quizzed last night (joint first after a disastrous collapse in the popular culture round) (and I was one day off on the date of the sinking of the Titanic earlier in the evening) (unforgivable).

I’m doing a friends’ UK quiz this evening.

I have a quiz on Wednesday.

As far as socialising goes, that’s it, but it’s valuable time with friends and we’re very grateful for it. We need that bridge to sanity, even if I did awake in a cold sweat at 3am dreaming about the 14th/15th April 1912.

As the worst of the pandemic hits Cape Town, the President is due to make another address this evening. 7pm, he says, but he’s not been on time for one yet. This is to announce (we think) a relaxation in the lockdown for some/most/probably not all of the country. The government has lost the faith and  support of the nation on the lockdown. It’s not going well.

The kids are 8 days away from a potential return to school, by which time the virus in Cape Town will be at the highest levels ever seen. The jury is still out whether this return is a good idea or not – or if it’s even going to happen. Maybe we’ll get some direction this evening. Maybe not. Probably not.

Our lockdown was meant to allow time for the healthcare system to prepare for the virus. Did we delay the start of the worst phase? Yes, probably. Has it made any difference? I’m not sure. We’re still being completely overwhelmed by the numbers. Would we have been more overwhelmed if this had happened two months ago? It seems hard to believe, but who knows?

But we can’t go back and do things differently: we don’t have a time machine, and even if we did, what sort of muppet would head back to late March and wait for the virus to hit SA? I know that there are some pretty stupid people out there, but honestly.
That would be like going back to the Grand Staircase of the Titanic on the 13th April 1912.

Safe for 24 hours then, at least. [swearword]

Sorry. I digress. Often.

If the purpose was to ready the healthcare system, then whether or not we managed to do that, there is very limited purpose in keeping the lockdown on: even in Cape Town, capital of the African branch of the pandemic.

Many people will be looking forward to being allowed to purchase alcohol and cigarettes again, but it’s doubtful that we’ll be allowed both – we might not even get either. Decent research shows that the prohibition on these items has been wholly unsuccessful and has generated a significant and structured black market which will likely continue after the lockdown and which will supply funds to organised crime.

So that’s good news. If you like organised crime.

Depending on what is announced this evening, tonight (and by tonight, I mean tomorrow, because we all need our sleep and it’s going be stormy and cold here this evening) could bring a huge celebration or widespread rioting.

Rest assured that I’ll bring you all the news from the streets with my bottle of petrol (or beer) in hand.

Keep safe. Keep well. Put a damn mask on.

Day 58 – Did my bit

I drank my SA wine last night.

But I didn’t drink all of it and so I still have some of my SA wine to drink tonight as well.

I chose a Journey’s End Shiraz to go with our roast. It was superb. It will likely be even superber this evening.

Yes, I made the roast, but I have to say that it was actually pretty decent as well.
Hashtag YorkshirePuddings

Day 56 – Superspreading

Not much here today, but I did enjoy the back-to-basics lessons available in this Sciencemag article.

It’s all about how certain individuals and certain situations are more likely to spread the virus than others. And while we’re not 100% sure of the reason for some people spread more virus than others:

Some people shed far more virus, and for a longer period of time, than others, perhaps because of differences in their immune system or the distribution of virus receptors in their body. A 2019 study of healthy people showed some breathe out many more particles than others when they talk… People’s behaviour also plays a role. Having many social contacts or not washing your hands makes you more likely to pass on the virus.

…it’s very much a reason that the virus gets passed on more quickly in some situations. These people don’t know they’re doing it and they don’t have a big red flashing light above their heads, but with quotes like:

“Probably about 10% of cases lead to 80% of the spread”

…if you’re not wearing a mask while you’re out and about, you’re very much part of the problem.

Especially if you are exercising. Surprise, surprise, the more energetic your breathing, the more virus you expel. So runners are the ones who are more likely to be spewing clouds of virus out. So those runners who are “unable” to cover their faces while they run because “it’s not very comfy” are potentially putting a lot of other people at risk.

Nice. Thanks, you precious, selfish twats.

As I shared just yesterday, the Washington Post described three superspreading events as being one reason why Cape Town has so many cases of Covid-19 at the moment. So there’s so much local relevance here.

But perhaps my favourite “OMG, that’s so obvious” moment was the meat-packing plant connection. Meat-packing plants are the perfect place for respiratory viruses for two reasons:
Firstly, they are cool (temperature-wise, rather than in trendiness), meaning that virus particles remain intact – and infectious – for longer, and
Secondly, because the machinery in the plants is loud and so workers have to talk more loudly to be heard. Louder voice (shouting, singing, deep breathing, panting) means you’re more likely to expel virus.

Amazingly simple. Amazingly obvious.
I love that someone actually had the sense to take it back that far.

Anyway, like I said: good article.
Wear a mask. Be lekker.

Day 55 – Places to go

Since we’re still not allowed out (much), I’ve had a quick scoot around some places you can go on the internet.

First off, I watched the Headstock stream marking the 40th anniversary of the death of Ian Curtis (I mentioned it here). UWS have posted the video on Youtube.
I highly recommend it, but if you only have a few minutes, then Kodaline (@1:14:35) and and Elbow (@1:50:26) were particular highlights. Also, some great interviews with Steven Morris and Bernard Sumner. Sadly, there were technical issues with the choir version of Love Will Tear Us Apart as the finale, which was rather disappointing and frustrating.

Next up, remember when I accidentally drove through the Addo National Park?

I knew you would.

SANParks have a live streaming camera set up on one of the waterholes there, so you can live vicariously through their lens.

LINK

It is live and wholly unedited, so you might not see anything when you click through, but we spotted warthogs and an elephant there yesterday.

And if the Eastern Cape isn’t your thing, you can find other SANParks cameras here.

Or, go and read this piece on why Cape Town has 10% of the the cases of Covid-19 on the whole African continent. (Can/could any other city claim a similar honour, worldwide?)

They mention tourism and three “super-spreader” events in their analysis, but the tourism thing wouldn’t have resulted in such a late surge of cases (from early May), given that there were no flights into CPT for 6 weeks before the graphs started to look quite so scary. In addition, my contacts at the local NHLS labs say they are only aware of one of the three “hotspots” mentioned in the article, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

Our kids are meant to be going back to school from the start of June, but the messages are all horribly mixed-up. By that point, the situation in Cape Town will be worse than at any point so far, we will still only be allowed out for 3 hours exercise each morning, and for essential shopping. We won’t be allowed out in open spaces like on beaches or the local National Park. The 8pm-5am curfew will still be in force.

But our kids will be ok to sit next to each other and in front of several teachers for 5 hours each day at school?

How does that even begin to make sense?

If we’re meant to try to avoid contracting the virus – for our own safety and for the good of the healthcare systems – then lock us all down. Don’t sent the kids out to catch it and bring it back into our homes. And yes, I know that stats about kids getting it less and spreading it less. And that’s great. But books, pens, folders, bags etc…
And less isn’t zero. Kids staying at home can’t spread what they don’t have.

But if you should have a health problem that puts you into a high risk category for Covid-19, the Department of Basic Education shares this little gem:

“Parents with chronic conditions are encouraged to not come into close contact with their kids that are attending school.”

Right. Easy and straightforward.

The piecemeal approach that’s currently being vaunted is ridiculous and contradictory. Either lift the lockdown (which clearly isn’t working here at the moment anyway) and send the kids to school, or keep everyone home.

It’s the dichotomy that pisses me off.

And what about teachers who fall into high risk categories?
Eish, don’t get me re-started.

I appeared to have digressed a bit. Sorry.

Right. One more idea: go and do a virtual tour of a famous museum or gallery and learn about some paintings. I wandered around the Eiffel Tower yesterday. Great views. Very quiet.