Day 231 – On Cyril’s Address

You can probably reach him at the Tuynhuys, Cape Town, 8001. But email might be quicker.

Obviously, I’m not talking about that sort of address though. President Ramaphosa addressed the nation last night at 8pm (he was on time again) on “developments in the response to Covid-19”.

He’d clearly had a good look at my post from a couple of days ago and essentially based his entire 45 minute monologue around it. The good news of the vaccine, the concern about the figures in Nelson Mandela Bay (which will surely spread from there), the apparent blasé attitude of those suffering from what he kindly described as “Covid fatigue” and not “pure stupidity”, and the massively incorrect Business Insider story about going back to Level 2.

Strange that.

For me, the address demonstrated the difficult balancing act between controlling the spread of the virus (which pretty much every decent economist worldwide agrees is key to re-establishing economic growth* and whatever passes for normality wherever you are) and attempting to keep the battered economy from crashing completely.

We’ve seen this elsewhere before:

So on the one hand, we have Cyril telling us to behave responsibly, wear masks, wash our hands and not attend big parties, and on the other, he’s opened the national borders and removed the restrictions on sales of alcohol. It seems contradictory – it is contradictory – but there are reasonable grounds for both approaches. I’m just painfully aware that while the government is certainly not the best at making sensible decisions regarding Covid (or anything else), putting the responsibility into the public’s hands is not likely to be much of an improvement.

Basically, it’s not going to go well either way, and it never was.

We still have the anti-mask brigade shouting about pore sizes and oxygen deficiency, with data that they gathered from some Facebook page based in the Republican heartlands of the Southern US. Never mind that it’s easily proven incorrect: that’s just the New World Order brainwashing you so that they can install Sharia Law and mandatory vaccination with Bill Gates’ 5G chips through the back door**.

And while the international borders are open, it remains to be seen if anyone will come down here for summer. I can actually see it happening to a certain degree: a nice cheap trip down to the sunshine after a shitty year. But a lot of the locals will be staying here anyway: there’s already a lot of chatter about the Garden Route and Southern Cape being booked up for the entirety of the summer break.
Masks and social distancing don’t happen in the small towns, which wasn’t so much of an issue while they were not invaded by hundreds of thousands of city folk and their virus. So what could go wrong with crowded beaches, pubs, towns and restaurants in small towns to the east?

Yes. Lots.

And so our next peak – should it not all go off in the next few weeks from PE – will likely be in January. Because people are not going to behave themselves sensibly over the holiday period.

What happens then, with the economy already shafted and schools, universities and businesses just about to go back for the new year?

Who knows?

Happy Days!

 

 

* we didn’t have any of that BTV anyway. 
** I’d much prefer an intramuscular injection, but I suppose suppository form is just another way in. 

Day 230, part 2 – How the turntables…

Here’s a headline:

31st August this year. You can see that.

Here’s another headline from today. I make that 72 days after the one above:

Yep. Ace has (finally) been charged with fraud and corruption over a R255 million asbestos audit tender in the Free State.

Great chance for the ANC to live up to their word and put him on leave: missed.

Maybe because Cyril is scared of this?

Day 142 – Cyril leaves it late

Here’s confirmation that cyril is leaving it pretty much as late as he can before address that lapsing National State of Disaster.

Just to be clear, if the National State of Disaster does lapse, it doesn’t mean that the nation won’t be a disaster.

That’s going to to take quite a shift in direction and an awfully long time to sort out. Not 4 hours.

Day 109 – 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 62 – A bizarre decision

Last night, the President announced that from June 1st, religious gatherings of up to 50 people would be permitted again.

I’m going to get straight in there and suggest that this is a stupid, populist decision which will mean more Covid-19 hotspots, more pressure on the health services and more deaths.

Throughout the lockdown, the SA government has made a number of decisions which appear to have absolutely no basis whatsoever in science or reason.

– You can buy closed-toed shoes, but not flip-flops. Why?
– You can’t buy cigarettes “because they are not healthy”, but alcohol can go on sale again on Monday. Silly.
– You can only exercise between 6 and 9am. Even though busy pavements make for greater risk of infection.

But this one is different.
This one has got scientific evidence all over it: it’s just that the evidence all points to not allowing religious gatherings of up to 50 people.

Churches and places of worship all over the world have been highlighted as epicentres of infection since the pandemic began:

In France: “‘Spreading at our church was so strong’, says French doctor infected with COVID-19”

In Germany: “More Than 100 in Germany Found to Be Infected With Coronavirus After Church’s Services”

Already infamously, in Korea: “Why a South Korean Church Was the Perfect Petri Dish for Coronavirus”

In the USA: “California megachurch linked to spread of more than 70 coronavirus cases”

And in… er… South Africa: “Entire church congregation being traced in response to coronavirus in Free State”

And they allow this, now? Really?

(We would have more cases if we had any test kits left to use to detect them.)

It might seem that I’m only singling out religious gatherings for criticism here, but it wasn’t me that chose that. Cyril did that when he told us that they’re the only gatherings which will be allowed.

I might rail against family braais, but I don’t have to, because I can’t have a family braai in my back garden with 2 visitors who I know have been observing all the rules and regulations for 9 weeks in case we spread the infection.
I can, however, spend 3 hours in an enclosed space with 49 strangers, singing and dancing.

I would have shouted about them re-opening restaurants, but that’s not necessary, because my friend can’t re-open his restaurant for even 10 people to have a burger at lunchtime in case anyone there has the virus.
Still, it’s fine for the post-service Sunday morning tea to go ahead.

[A no contact delivery service is available, though.]
(for the restaurant, not the Sunday morning tea)

To be honest, I probably wouldn’t fight about people sitting on a beach, on their own. Sadly though, I can’t sit on a beach on my own. But I can sit next to someone who didn’t wear a mask when they went to the supermarket yesterday. Or the day before.

I’ve got nothing against religious gatherings. But the dichotomy stinks.

However, it’s likely that when Cyril comes up for re-election, he will gently remind the pastors of yesterday evening, and they will nudge (what’s left of) their flock to vote for him. Some method in his madness, then.

But it still really is madness.

 

UPDATE: An interesting take here from UWC’s Andries du Toit.