Day 329 – Decisions; consequences

I’m at a well-known trampoline park in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. I come here each week to have a coffee while I watch the boy at training. I’d usually be here on a Tuesday, but this trampoline park is no longer open on a Tuesday, because no-one comes here much anymore, because of Covid.

That they have cut three days from their opening times demonstrates just how bad things are and how much the pandemic has affected everything around us.

Of course, this also has huge implications for the staff here. They’ve likely lost 42.9% of their income. And that’s crap.

But…

We’d be out of this pandemic more quickly if people wore masks and washed hands and kept their distance from one another. No-one – including most of the staff – is doing those things here. And I’m not saying that this is the only place that is ignoring the sensible advice, but it’s certainly one of them.

You’d think that they would want to try anything to make things better: to demonstrate best practice and encourage the bouncers back in safety, and to do their little bit to end this global shitshow just a little bit sooner.

They’ve made the decision not to bother, though. And I have to wonder just how long this place will survive…

Day 309 – Vaccines: it’s complicated

Who’d be a politician? Not me.

There are very few decisions that you will ever make that will make the people happy. Some of the people, sure. But not all of them.
When you do the wrong thing, they’ll jump all over you and when you do the right thing, they won’t acknowledge it because it should have been done sooner, or later, or in a different way.

And when you add Covid to the situation, then it becomes an even messier boiling pot of piss. Lockdown, don’t lockdown, lockdown but sooner, lockdown but more lightly, lockdown but let the pubs serve scotch eggs; close the borders but leave them open; protect the teachers but don’t close the schools.

And once you’ve messed all that up, you can get onto the vaccine issue.

Now, without saying that they are perfect in any way, I think that the UK government seems to have done rather well on the vaccine stuff. They ordered early and have thankfully avoided the complete mess that the EU has made of the whole thing:

The latest figures from Our World in Data reveal that just 2.1% of the EU population has received a vaccine, compared with 10.8% for the UK. The goal to vaccinate at least 70% of the EU’s population by this summer is wildly off – at the current pace, the bloc as a whole would reach only 15% by the end of September.

But guess who’s fault that EU mess is?

Well, apparently it’s the UK’s, because they ordered the vaccine that the EU wanted, but they had their ducks in a row and they ordered it earlier. It’s like the lazy guy who only woke up at 10:58 blaming you for grabbing the last Sausage and Egg McMuffin.

But no, let’s ignore our own ugly shortfalls and find another scapegoat. Deflecting the blame is such a politician thing.

Happily, Boris is having none of it:

While the finger pointing on the continent continued, Prime Minister Boris Johnson avoided being drawn on any potential impact of the dispute on UK vaccine supplies.

The UK has made money available for other countries to get vaccines, too. But read the papers and the pixels and all you see is criticism. And I think that’s a little unfair in this situation.

Because apparently, the UK is one of those “hoarding” vaccine:

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday urged wealthy countries not to hoard surplus COVID-19 vaccine supplies, adding his voice to calls for global production to be shared more equally.

But we in SA could also have had a successful programme in place, were it not for the fact that we only started negotiating with vaccine suppliers on January 6th. And were it not for the fact that at least some of the R500 billion war chest to deal with Covid hadn’t made its way into the pockets of corrupt government officials and towards failed SOEs.

But no, let’s ignore our own ugly shortfalls and find another scapegoat. Deflecting the blame is such a politician thing.

Meanwhile:

Britain said on Sunday (Jan 10) it has helped raise US$1 billion from global donors towards the drive to help “vulnerable countries” access coronavirus vaccines, by match-funding contributions.

The UK said, in addition, it has committed 548 million pounds to the Covax Advance Market Commitment (AMC), after matching with 1 pound every US$4 pledged by other donors.

I mean, it’s not bad, is it? You can’t really say that they’re not helping out. And sure, one could argue that they are a rich country and so on, but one could also find plenty of space for that sort of money within the UK, especially given the pandemic.

And yes, many countries (including the UK and those in the EU) have ordered more vaccines than they need, simply because they didn’t know which vaccines would work and which wouldn’t. And sure, they’re lucky to be able to hedge their bets in that way, but you can rest assured that any spares (and hopefully those orders all come through and there will be spares) will be redistributed through Covax. Just like Cyril wanted.

That’s… er… the same Covax that the SA government missed the deadline to pay and join, by the way.

There’s good news too, though. Maybe SA can take up Tanzania’s share of vaccines, because Tanzania’s president is still relying on the dual therapy of [checks notes] steam inhalation and God:

“We will also continue to take health precautions including the use of steam inhalation,” he said.

“You inhale while you pray to God, you pray while farming maize, potatoes, so that you can eat well and corona fails to enter your body. They will scare you a lot, my fellow Tanzanians, but you should stand firm.”

And, to be fair, that approach does seem to working, given that they haven’t had any cases of Covid since last July.

Mainly because they stopped testing for it then. And as U2 told us, you can’t find what you’re not still looking for*.

Without giving any evidence, Magufuli said vaccines may be part of a foreign plot to steal Africa’s wealth.

“Vaccines are not good. If they were, then the white man would have brought vaccines for HIV/AIDS,” Magufuli said during the opening of a new farm in his western home region.

Sure. And quite possibly a cure for stupid, as well.

 

 

* or some such, anyway

Day 306 – It’s all about priorities

I’m on the fence. Metaphorically, at least.

I’m aware that lockdowns limit the spread of the virus – this is undoubtedly a Good Thing – but I’m also aware that they limit our personal freedoms and the ability of businesses to make money: and that’s not a Good Thing at all, because those have implications for health and survival as well.

So, putting things simplistically, I’m asking if we can objectively, accurately and meaningfully compare protecting lives and protecting livelihoods? I don’t think so.

You might think that it’s an absolute no-brainer, but if you were to tell me that, I wouldn’t necessarily know on which side you were coming down. Because it’s all about your overall view on life, the universe and everything, and your particular outlook might be poles apart from someone else’s.
Yes, you could argue that there are political and/or economic affiliations to either camp, and I’d definitely agree. But that doesn’t get us any further on what is right or wrong and which is the better path to take. And once again, as with every dichotomy these days, the divisions between the two sides are deep and emotive and can’t be bridged.

Because I know that I don’t know enough, I’m not on either side.
I’m on the fence. Metaphorically, at least.

You’d think that there were some things that we could agree on, though. We have a lockdown in South Africa at the moment. So if, for example, you don’t agree with lockdowns, then you would want to get rid of that as soon as possible in order to to get the economy back up and running* as soon as possible. Because even if your view is that livelihoods > lives (and as I’ve already said, I don’t want to get into a fight over this, because I don’t claim to have the knowledge or data to agree or not), you must surely still attribute some value to the latter, and so protecting those through means other than a lockdown would surely make sense. Right? And the means to do that would definitely include social distancing, wearing a mask and advocating for the vaccine to be administered as widely as possible as soon as possible. Right as well?

And yet, weirdly, there seems to be a strong correlation between people who are anti-lockdown, and yet are also anti-mask and anti-vaccine**.

If you want to get out of lockdown as soon as possible, then stop doing things which might spread more virus around, thus prolonging the lockdown. It’s not rocket surgery.

Mind you, you’d also think that people would be sensible enough not to attend a cat’s birthday party during a global pandemic. Because it’s all about priorities, isn’t it? And when it’s my health (and possibly my life) up against joining a feline on its birthday, well, I know where mine would lie.

And yet:

Questions. Several of them.

First off, do you have birthday parties for your pets? Sure, we might get the beagle a bone or something to celebrate its birthday, but we don’t invite 10 people around to our house. Hell, we didn’t even invite anyone around to celebrate the human birthdays in our household this last year, because there’s a frikkin’ global pandemic going around, and getting together with a group of people increases your chance of getting this really nasty virus.

And if you don’t believe me, just look at what happened at this cat’s birthday bash. The only one that seems to have come out unscathed is the cat. Selfish little git.

The outbreak was confirmed by Francisco Alvarez, The Valparaiso Regional Secretary of the Ministry of Health.
He said when he first heard the outbreak began at a cat’s birthday party he didn’t believe it.

Me too, Francisco. Me too. Because:

Secondly, if you do have a birthday party for your pet (and I’m really not on the fence about this one), why do you invite humans?
Cats hate humans. Your cat hates you. If you didn’t feed it, it would kill you in your bed. The last thing a cat wants around it on its special day that it doesn’t know anything about is more humans.

Not actual footage

In conclusion, don’t hold birthday parties for your cat. And really don’t hold birthday parties for your cat during a pandemic.

We’ve addressed the mentality of South Africans pertaining to the pandemic before here. (And I mentioned it here as well.)

It seems like it’s rife in Chile as well.

 

 

* or at least “stumbling” in our case
** which would seem to suggest that they think “it’s a conspiracy” or “it’s not real”. and that’s where they lose me and any of my respect, completely. 

Day 304 – Wander with a camera

A quick trip to Kirstenbosch Gardens (we’re members now, don’t you know?) this morning with a camera (50mm prime lens only) in hand yielded some decent exercise and a few nice pics, not least this Common Garden Orbweb Spider (Agriope australis), which was much better camouflaged than you might imagine.

Not sure what the thicker woven threads top left and bottom left are, but it was quite an impressive construction for a relatively small spider.

And how about a bit of Erica densifolia to brighten your day?

Because of… well… you know what, a lot of outdoor spaces (basically those without controlled entrance) are out of bounds at the moment and even Kirstenbosch is only open 9-6, leading to huge, mostly socially-distanced queues outside the gates when we arrived. And then the frustrating stupidity of the official at the entrance with his mask under his nose, touching everyone’s hands while taking their temperature, but telling us all to behave safely.

Still, once you’re in, and past the muppets, you can lose yourself nicely for a while.
This was an hour or so well-spent.

Day 301 – Taking stock

Yes, this was meant to happen yesterday, but then a family emergency happened yesterday and so this didn’t. Still, on the plus side, we now have another day of data to look at.

Yesterday marked 300 days of lockdown in South Africa. Varying degrees of lockdown – from literally staying inside your house 24/7 to going out and doing most anything you wanted as long as it wasn’t between 12-4am – sure, but still a lockdown in some form or other.

So where are we now?

Well, that kind of depends on with when you choose to compare our current situation.

(Dr Ridhwaan Suliman’s twitter stream is a great local Covid data resource.)

Compared with 10 days ago: Great.
Compared with 10 weeks ago: Not so good.
Compared with 10 months ago: Also not so good, but, that was just before the first wave was on the way, and it was all very unavoidable, so probably not a very fair comparison.

Since lockdown began, we’ve lost lives, we’ve lost jobs, we’ve lost livelihoods, we’ve lost (what was left of) the economy and – in many cases – we’ve lost hope.

Given the time and the effort and the sacrifices, and notwithstanding that viruses are going to do virus things, it’s not a pretty picture.

Our often dysfunctional, often corrupt government has addressed the pandemic in a haphazard, illogical manner – not that I’m saying there was any given “right” way of doing things – and if news reports are to be believed (I know, I know) it has now also completely messed up sourcing even close to adequate vaccines for the country through its incompetence, which is unforgivable.

Our population has been asked, then coerced and then forced to adhere to simple steps to reduce the transmission of the virus.

The good news is that we seem to have now passed the beak of the second wave, and the positivity rate (not a perfect marker, but the best we have) is dropping off sharply. I’m hopeful that we can now begin to open up again, as was promised in Ramaphosa’s speech a couple of weeks ago, and again attempt to approach some sort of normality.

Some lifting of the alcohol ban would certainly assist the liquor and hospitality sector.
On that note, please read this from Jacques Rousseau. Lovely stuff.

The kids are already back at school, doing alternate days to keep the in-class numbers down (and then online learning on their off days), because they can, given that there has been no official gazetting of school closures (and probably/possibly won’t be, according to this), but they’d love to get back full time as soon as possible. That routine makes a huge difference.

Basically, as a country we continue – somehow – to teeter on the very edge of disaster. The tape that’s been holding everything together for years now is very much losing its sticking power and it does really seem like there’s not much to look forward to, despite those decreasing numbers.

Let’s see what the next couple of week brings.
Maybe I can write a more optimistic post if there turns out to be a bit more optimistic news.