Day 102, part 2 – Cape Town from space (2)

Doug Hurley (one half of space duo Bob and Doug) yesterday tweeted some pictures of South African cities (Joburg, Pretoria and Cape Town) taken from the International Space Station.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen Cape Town from space – remember Randy Bresnick’s August 2017 image?

I’ve rotated Doug’s image to make it more recognisable and conventional.

False Bay at the bottom, Table Bay top left (with spots of light from ships moored on the anchorage), Somerset West and Strand bottom right. All white Stellenbosch (I mean with LED street lighting, not exclusively race) middle right.

Four and a half million people in just 50cm². Amazing

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 48 – Plenty to go around

There aren’t a lot of positives at the moment ( I shared my observations on that here). But sometimes, all you have to do is look at the glass being half-full, rather than half-empty.

Sorry… did I say “glass? I meant dams.


I really don’t want to be the first to mention this, but we’re halfway through May and we’ve not had any significant rainfall in the Cape yet. It’s stirring up early memories of the drought we went through between 2015-2018. While the virus has been (rightfully) taking centre stage, there are so many other problems that are still out there – they haven’t gone away just because we’re facing a bigger challenge right now.

The City has been (quietly) keeping us up to date with the demand for water and the dam levels. As you might expect in Autumn, (hopefully) heading into the rainy season, the dam levels aren’t all that they could be and they continue to decline slowly each week with the population using water and it not being replaced at quite the same rate.

I’m sure you know how it works.

However, it seems that the Covid-19 crisis might have some very positive spin-offs for the impending dry wet season – at least according to FB commenter Joachim:


Look, he’s not wrong: fewer residents use less water.


There’s plenty of evidence of people leaving the city and trying to head home to their family homes in the Eastern Cape. And indeed, piles of corpses overwhelming our local medical facilities are unlikely to bathe, water their gardens or leave the tap running while they brush their teeth.

Which will save a fair bit as well.

But am I alone in thinking that Joachim hasn’t really gone through all of the implications of the situation he describes in his comment before sharing it with the world?

Cape Town beaches to close


And people aren’t happy.

Top tip: If you read Jeff Geffen’s FB comment in the slightly desperate, mildly hysterical drawl of a drunk detective from a UK 70’S cop TV series, it’s just perfect.

Also, try the voice of a knowledgeable wizard.

“This is over-reach, Plato” is my new favourite line of 2020.

A couple of hours later, the whole of SA got completely locked down by the President, and I can’t wait to hear what Jeff thinks about that.

a-ha in Cape Town – some thoughts

Last night was really very special. Right up there with the Bergen concert.

A balmy evening, a really well-organised experience, some decent support acts, an appreciative crowd, and – of course – Morten, Magne and Pål doing their stuff up on stage. Really fantastic.

As a celebration of the 35th (weep!) anniversary of their first album, they played all ten tracks in full and in order before moving on to some of their more well-known songs. As a fan and a purist, this was so perfect: the opportunity to hear them play some stuff which I hadn’t heard live since (literally) 1986. Just a remarkable experience.

The Blue Sky was gorgeous, the demo version of I Dream Myself Alive was unique and such a rush for the true fans. Here I Stand And Face The Rain  was powerful, energetic and evocative.

And then done with the old stuff, and straight into the bassy, rocky Sycamore Leaves. Wow.

Shall we play something you all know, now?

asked Magne, and the crowd roared as they launched into I’ve Been Losing You. But I just wanted them to keep playing – whatever.

Foot Of The Mountain, Analogue and The Swing Of Things sounded better than I have ever heard them, Stay On These Roads was beautiful and so well-received and respected, and although we didn’t get Crying In The Rain or the new Digital River, that was just fine. It was almost as if they had tailor-made the setlist for me.

Thanks, boys.

The short, but sweet encore of Scoundrel Days (a personal favourite) with a scary echoey reverb, and a rousing The Living Daylights rounded the evening off perfectly.

Not that I couldn’t have done with another hour and a half.  A really wonderful experience, and one I was so chuffed to have shared with the kids.

Was this my last a-ha concert? Who knows? (After all, I have been to my last a-ha concert several times already…!) I hope not, obviously, because I just love their music and hearing it live is so special for me.

But… but, if it was, then this was a fitting send off. What a truly exceptional evening.


All my photos from the concert (15)