Day 117 – Really?

In a country where everything – everything – gets touched by the thieving hands of Government corruption, it’s good to know that someone is finally standing up and fighting corruption. That someone is… [checks notes] er… [checks notes again] er… apparently, it’s… The Government.

This image, appended to the bottom of this tweet:

Government remains committed to building an ethical State in which there is no place for corruption, patronage, rent-seeking and plundering of public money. Report any suspected corrupt activities. #AntiCorruption #FightingCorruption Read more: gov.za/anticorruption

reminded me of [an analogy I decided not to use*] or the Pope encouraging people to come forward and root out Catholicism.

It’s literally everywhere (corruption, not Catholicism) (although…) from the President’s office down.

 

They say a fish rots from the head, but there’s smelly sludge all over the gills, fins and tail in this case. (Can you tell that I never did more than basic fish biology during my studies?)

R4.8 million for someone to go door to door and tell people about Covid-19 – R2640 per person. A cool ten and a half grand if there’s a family of four at home when you call.

There’s R29.7 million “missing” in KZN.

The R500 billion coronavirus fund was obviously just too good an opportunity to miss:

So:

And I should probably just not mention the Eastern Cape Scooter Fiasco*.

These examples were not hard to find, at all. And one could argue that at least someone is documenting, recording and reporting them. But mostly, nothing ever happens about these cases, and even on the odd occasion when it does, the perpetrators are re-employed by their equally corrupt colleagues (and/or political party) soon afterwards anyway.

So where is the punishment?

So what is the point?

But then for the government – arguably the most guilty entity for both the enabling of and looting of public money – to tell us that “Fighting corruption is everyone’s business”?

I’ve honestly never heard such utterly hypocritical bullshit.

 

 

* 100 words in was just too soon to invoke Godwin’s Law. 
** I actually saw The Eastern Cape Scooter Fiasco on the Friday at Reading in 2007. Great drummer. Energetic performance. 

Day 111 – Simulation

I’m not going to spend too much time on this, because it is fairly straightforward stuff, unless you’re an idiot.

One of the things that companies and organisations do is train their staff. That’s so that their staff and systems can become more proficient at doing whatever it is that they do. It’s not rocket science (although I guess that rockets scientists also do training stuff – it’s pretty much ubiquitous).

If I think of a profession that trains regularly, I think of firefighters. Remember passing the local fire station with its four-storey tower build specifically for training, as a kid?

Here’s my local one:

The UN and the WHO are organisations that train their staff. One of the things they train their staff on is how to deal with global pandemics, because that’s the sort of thing that the UN and the WHO are involved in dealing with. They work with other organisations (governments, the EU, the CDC etc) and other experts in planning for these sort of things so that – hopefully, at least- communications, sharing of data, logistics and the like can all be put in place more quickly and more efficiently in the event of an actual global pandemic, whether it is one that came from a wildlife market in Wuhan or from a terrorist organisation releasing a pathogenic organism.

Yep. Believe it or not, the global response to this virus could have been even worse, were it not for the training that the UN and its friends have been doing for years (because we’ve known for years that something like this was coming, remember?).

They simulate what they would have to do in a situation like this.

They don’t actually do it.

Much as the boys and girls from Rivelin Fire Station simulate fighting a house fire as described above. They don’t actually come round to your place, dowse it in petrol and light it up, just to see if they can get you out from an upstairs window before you succumb to smoke inhalation and/or horrific burns.

That would be real*, not a simulation.  

If you read this thing going around on Whatsapp:

… as being the “smoking gun” evidence that this pandemic is just a massive experiment on the entire population of the planet, carefully orchestrated by shadowy figures who control our world leaders, then I’m telling you that you’re wrong.

How careless of the UN and the WHO to have accidentally published it in a (still) globally available document. You’d really think that they’d have tried to keep this information to themselves, wouldn’t you?**

“Oops.”

If you then, having been wrong above, make a 1 hour and 40 minute (!!) Youtube video (and no, I will not share the link) about this being the “smoking gun” evidence that this pandemic is just a massive experiment on the entire population of the planet, carefully orchestrated by shadowy figures who control our world leaders, then [choose appropriate deity], you are clearly beyond any help that I (or possibly anyone else) can give you.

Life is hard enough right now without this sort of tinfoil hat-ism.

Really. Get a grip.

 

 

* also, that would be arson…
** yeah, but that’s exactly what they want you to think…

 

Day 110 – Understanding reactions

People react to different things in different ways.

As Rudyard Kipling famously wrote:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs…

Then you would be good as the first responder to a multi-vehicle pile up*.
You need someone who can organise and mobilise and prioritise in that situation.

But that’s not important here.
Unless you are reading this while driving, in which case, it might be important soon.

I can understand why people react with frustration and disappointment to the recently reinstated alcohol ban. I also reacted this way (even though I also understand the alleged rationale behind it).

I get why people don’t agree with the ban on the sale of tobacco. I don’t agree with it either.

But I can’t understand why people won’t wear masks. It’s so simple. So obvious. So straightforward. It’s so easy. I cannot see the downside.

Maybe the resistance is because of the other rules and regulations over which you have less control? Pushback against a government that one feels is taking things too far?

I know, I know – there are a lot of other underlying issues here. No time for those right now. Or… maybe… ever.

But wearing a mask isn’t difficult and it has benefits for everyone – even slowing the spread of the virus and potentially getting those other “draconian” measures lifted sooner.

Being asked to wear a mask is a no-brainer.

It shouldn’t elicit stuff like this:

 

u wot m8?

You don’t need me to point out just how many things there are wrong with this (spoiler: I’m about to list a few, anyway). It simply doesn’t make any sense.
Where has this toddler been that everyone is wearing masks all the time? Why was everybody (and clearly, I mean everybody) wearing masks in Dubai for a couple of years before the coronavirus outbreak? What happened to this toddler’s parents? Why haven’t they taken him for tests? Or is he in hospital for those tests? Did they not discover any other underlying medical or psychological condition? How did they pinpoint it on the mask thing? I mean, it isn’t like the toddler could have told them, is it? How many toddlers are there in Dubai? How many toddlers are there in the world? Why is this toddler the only one affected in this way?

And then the big ones:
Why would someone make something like this up?
And why would anyone believe it?

I don’t know why people react to different things in different ways. For example, I don’t know why I reacted to this tweet by sitting in front of the footy last night and writing a 1000-word, fictional feature article about this Dubai toddler.

But I did.

Maybe it was that I needed answers to those questions above.
Maybe it was that the football was rather dull. I don’t know.

Anyway. Please go and read it and share it. Just for the lolz.

And please wear a mask. Thanks.

 

* Rudyard didn’t write that last line. 

Day 108 – All change (again)

Another address from the President at short notice yesterday evening and it’s all change again for the rules and regulations of Level 3 Lockdown. Or Level 3 Enhanced or Advanced or Plus or Plus Plus (which makes everything better). I’m a bit lost as to exactly where we are now.

I think we’re all a bit lost as to exactly where we are now.

What changed last night, then?

Masks became mandatory in public places. There are now a lot more rules and detail about that, replacing the previous:

A person must when in a public place, wear a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth, or another appropriate item to cover the nose and mouth.

Which did kind of suggest that masks were mandatory when in public places.
Good. There’s plenty of evidence that this will slow the spread of the virus – especially in indoor space (which aren’t good places to be anyway right now, remember?)

The sale of alcohol got banned again. Annoying, disruptive, damaging to the local economy, but sadly understandable, given the current pressure on our healthcare systems. And yes, it does feel like the whole class is being punished because a couple of kids wouldn’t stop talking, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Trying to put those two children on the naughty step has not worked, so we all have to suffer. Once again, the black market will open up, shebeens won’t be adequately policed and the law will instead choose to crack down on someone with a six-pack of Savannah in his car boot. It’s all part of the dysfunctional society in which we live.

A new curfew 2100-0400. It seems like that those two kids who ignored the teacher and kept chatting also do it mainly at night. Alcohol and late nights are apparently the thing and time that there is most pressure on hospitals – at least from a unnecessary admissions point of view. So – no more booze and no more late nights. Not that the rest of the class were out and about much anyway.

Taxis can now have 100% occupancy for short distance trips. As long as their passengers wear masks (as above) and as long as the taxis have their windows open.

Eish… Taxis… taxis… taxis… The transport lifeline of low income South Africans.
The bane of every other road users’ life.
Let me take you through the folly of these regulations in no particular order.

100% occupancy. This in the same week that it was revealed that having middle seats empty on planes halved the risk of catching coronavirus. 100% occupancy in taxis will only increase the chance of passengers catching Covid-19 on their taxi journey. However: honestly, given the infamous disregard for the law amongst SA taxi drivers, it’s unlikely that they were sticking to the previous 70% rule anyway.
Opening windows. I can be pretty sure that the windows on taxis will not be opened during journeys in winter. It’s either freezing cold, soaking wet or (and yes, actually at the moment) both. Opening the windows may seem like a silly thing, but ventilation is key in preventing the spread of respiratory illness. It’s one simple way of reducing the spread of TB. However: honestly, given the lack of anyone opening taxi windows to “Stop TB” and yes, given the infamous disregard for the law amongst SA taxi drivers, it’s unlikely that any windows will be opened.
Wearing masks. This one is down to the passengers, because they sit behind the driver and once they are on board, s/he can’t see them. Given the adherence to the mask rules so far, and adding that there is no apparent punishment for the passenger – only for the driver, I can’t see this one working out either.

So, while fully understanding the importance of the minibus taxi industry for many South Africans, taxi use will merely lead to more infections and provide an excellent vector for the virus to spread further, both due to the very nature of the rules, and the fact that any mitigating regulations are likely to be ignored.

We can still go to church, to cinemas and the theatre, but only if there are fewer than 50 of us there. We can pop in to the casino or restaurant, as long as they make sure it’s not more than 50% full. But we can’t go and see our families in their homes. I don’t agree with half of this. Probably not the half you think though.
Let me explain it from a couple of places.

I have mentioned before that just because something is permitted, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. And being inside with other people is not a good idea at the moment.

It’s almost as if that first line of the lockdown regulations:

You must remain at home at all times…

was put there for a good reason.

I would strongly advise against going to cinemas, theatres, casinos and restaurants right now. But at least if you do (and assuming that they are following regulations, which many/most seem to be), you will be screened on entry and have your details recorded, so 1. things are controlled and infection risk is reduced, and 2. if there is a problem, they can get back in touch with you and tell you that you may have been exposed.
I wouldn’t be visiting family and friends (especially older family and friends) even if it were allowed right now. Really, infecting relatives because the little asymptomatic transmission fairy was hitching a ride on your shoulder is not a good look.
Let’s be honest, many people have been going round to see their families and visit friends, been meeting in groups to exercise, and generally ignoring regulations since lockdown began. And who of them is going to then obey the rules about not going out if you are feeling under the weather?
And there are no screening precautions in place at Ouma and Oupa’s place.

There are far too many stories about people getting sick because they have done silly things.

So don’t go out if you can possibly avoid it: and you really can avoid cinemas, theatres, casinos, restaurants and Aunt Mary’s. You can.

So in conclusion, once again, if you take a step back and look through neutral-coloured spectacles, the government is trying to balance the dangers of the virus and the dangers of a collapsing economy. And they are trying to follow best practice as far as limiting potential exposure and protecting people – in words at least.
Are they doing it very well? Not really.

They’re in a no win situation. And they’re not winning.

Will people continue to break the rules as and when they see fit? Damn straight.
Will any of this be adequately, fairly and correctly policed? Nope.
Will we see the black market rise again for booze and continue for cigarettes? Of course.

This is not a pretty picture. But then global pandemics rarely seem to paint those.

 

Day 106 – No definite answer

It’s cold, grey and wet. We’re sheltering behind closed curtains and in front of a fire, either working on spreadsheets, working on school stuff or reading sobering, cautionary correspondence about how we, as the human race, are going to deal with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The widespread opinion has been that we’re in this sticky situation until we can get a vaccine sorted, rolled out and administered to as many people as possible. And that’s the goal.

But there are signs that it’s not going to be quite as simple as Design Vaccine, Mass Produce Vaccine, Immunise World Population. Never mind the clear difficulties inherent in steps 2 and 3: number 1 seems to be proving more problematic than we had hoped.

This BMJ editorial from various UK academics spells out (some of?) the potential problems with any vaccine (and other immunological therapies) for Covid-19

Worldwide, many covid-19 vaccines are at various phases of development…
Understandably, there is great public expectation that these efforts will be successful, but caution is necessary with respect to both vaccines and passive immunity.

Vaccine being poking you with stuff that will make your body produce antibodies against Covid-19, and passive immunity being short-term protection by poking you with ready-made antibodies taken from someone who has had Covid-19.

Both are good ways to prevent people getting any given disease, but there are no guarantees that either of them will be successful against Covid-19.

There are many reasons why they might not work, or why they might not work as well as we would like or need them to:
Vaccines don’t work as well in older people: Covid-19 disproportionately affects older people. So can we make it work in the people that need it most?
The bit of the virus that we are hoping to target with the vaccine might mutate – meaning that even if we make a working vaccine, it might not work for very long.
We’ve never managed to make a vaccine against SARS or MERS – both very similar viruses to this nasty bugger – despite years of trying.

And – it’s complicated – but giving antibodies to patients might not be the best plan either. It’s worked well before with other diseases (even Ebola!), but this isn’t other diseases. In fact, there’s even the risk that – because of the way some cases of Covid-19 progress – giving convalescent serum (the antibodies) to a patient might even make them sicker.

Finding the solutions to these problems isn’t something that you or I can influence, but I just felt that it was worth putting it out there that you should probably abandon those foregone conclusions that science will have this all sorted out by Christmas (or whenever).

Sorry about that.