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.

Day 245, part 2 – More Covid things that won’t work

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde is asking the local public to just follow some very simple guidelines and rules:

The virus is not gone but will be with us over the holidays and beyond. Therefore, we need to remain safe and protect each other…

…in order to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

That plan that clearly won’t work because no-one ever follows the rules in South Africa.

But then we bring you news from The Homeland, where the government is asking people to:

use their common sense

…when planning family gatherings and Christmas parties.

And that plan that clearly won’t work because no-one in the UK has any common sense.

 

People (sometimes rightly) complain when a government steps in with draconian rules and regulations, but if we’re absolutely honest, when things are left up to the general public, it’s almost always utterly crap and if that happens with this second wave, it’s going to result in a massive disaster both here and there.

Day 118 – 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 100 – Searching for the silver lining

It’s 100 days since SA locked down. In that time, we’ve done the hard yards of Level 5, the only-ever-so-mildly-easier yards of Level 4* and then slipped into the sloppiness that is Level 3 (and then “Advanced Level 3” – which nobody quite understands).

Cigarette sales are still bizarrely banned, but other than that, life is going on pretty much as usual, albeit (mostly) with masks.
That and, oh yes, the virus being more prevalent and deadly than ever before.

Much has been made of England’s decision to reopen pubs and restaurants this week, but that’s an example of one of the “impossible” choices that Governments have had to make when balancing infection rates and jobs (in this case in the remnants of the hospitality industry). Those individuals whinging and whining on social media about how it’s “too soon” and “too dangerous” may have a point, but also clearly have no concerns about the close on a million jobs in pubs, restaurants and hotels in the South East of England alone. And yes, there will be spikes in infections as people start to interact more normally again, but we’re going to see spikes all over the world for (probably) years to come. We cannot wait for a the chance of a vaccine before we start to open our economies again.

In fact, South Africa didn’t even have the luxury of waiting until the infection rate began to level out. Our fragile economy meant that the lockdown had to be relaxed right as the virus started to take hold: a perfect storm of natural infection and enhanced movement and social interaction, all in one. Wonderful.

And it is still going to get (much) worse here before it starts to get any better.

It’s easy (and natural) to look at the past 100 days and see the despair, the disasters and the difficulties. It’s been a truly horrendous few months. And – perhaps because it’s such low-hanging fruit – everyone has done it. Regularly. Often. I are also guilty.

So, with 100 days chalked up on the cell wall, I wondered about looking for any positives that have come out of the situation. I’ll start by warning you that there aren’t many, but that doesn’t mean that they should be overlooked. There may be a lot of clouds, but some of them must have silver linings, right?

The enhanced sense of community is something that I have noticed. The acceptance that this situation is bigger than any of us, and that we need to work together to help one another. From friendly tips and offers to help on the local Whatsapp groups, through charities benefitting from people having more time to assist, to a greater appreciation of those services and individuals who have been working to keep things going – as much as has been possible – throughout.

Peace and quiet: fewer cars on the road and an overnight curfew meant that we could hear birdsong during the day and the Spotted Eagle Owls in the darkness. Caracals didn’t get killed on our roads, penguins took over Simonstown. Dolphins returned to Table Mountain.

THERE WERE NO TOURIST HELICOPTERS FLYING OVER MY HOUSE EVERY TEN MINUTES AND IT WAS GREAT!

Seriously, check the carbon footprint on that particular experience, guys.
And then stop it. Permanently.

Family time. Forced to spend time together, we… actually spent time together. We played games together, we exercised together (sometimes in the living room, sometimes in the garden, sometimes (when we were allowed) in the real world! We even spent (online) time with other families, doing stuff like quizzes and virtual evenings out.

We had to find new ways to work: restaurants did deliveries, supermarket apps upped their lousy game to be slightly less lousy, we supported local businesses and stores where we could. Not carrying your laptop to a different desk on the other side of the city each morning and then back again each evening became a thing. (Some) schools successfully managed to teach their students. Technological progress was fast-tracked and shaky, but (mostly) held together.

I understand that these positives don’t outweigh the huge negatives which the country has had to endure, and also that for many people, there has been no bright side at all. We’ve been lucky in that we have the means – and the space – to generally handle what this situation has thrown at us so far.

But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try look for the good bits of what has happened over this last 100 days: this whole state of affairs is overtly negative, and will quickly drag you down unless you cling to the occasional positive. So that’s what I’ve tried to do here.

I’ve decided that The Lockdown Diaries posts will continue for the moment – at least until life returns to normal. (lol!)

That might be a while yet, but together, somehow, I’m confident that we’ll make it.

 

* there was still no alcohol

Day 83 – The WHO mask post

Much excitement online about this FB post from the WHO.

Here’s the image that came with it:

Apparently, this now means that [fictitious couple but we’ve all met them] Justin Whitebru and his obnoxious wife Karen are free to breathe all over everyone while they jog on the Sea Point Prom with their friends before breathing all over everyone at the coffee shop around the corner.

Actually no. Let’s unpack this for Justin, Karen et al. (Al is particularly keen to learn more.)

First off, a cartoon on the WHO Facebook page does not trump the local rules and regulations, which very clearly state:

And since the Constantia GreenBelt, the Sea Point Prom and all other public places where you might choose to exercise… are public places, that’s immediately game over for Justin and his “quick farve kay” buddies.

Let’s just summarise what we’ve learnt so far:

It doesn’t matter what you read on Facebook about not wearing masks while exercising, nor the authority of who posted it. The Disaster Management Act: Regulations: Alert level 3 during Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa state that you must wear a cloth facemask covering your mouth and nose while you are in a public place. 

Thanks for reading.

And because we’re clearly done here I should end it now, but like an irritating shopping channel, wait… there’s more!

Because I know that local rules and regulations don’t cut it for most people around here.

So here are some more words about this:

The main reason that we are required to wear masks when out and about is not to protect ourselves, but to protect those around us. No, sure, I know you know you don’t have the virus, Susan, because you washed your hands last Tuesday and you’ve been taking your supplements and all, but the fact is that you can be infectious while having absolutely no symptoms.

In fact, that’s one of the major problems we face in trying to overcome this pandemic.

Wearing a mask while you’re having your jog means that you are much less likely to spread the virus to other people. It’s been shown that your trail of aerosol droplets is likely to be far larger while you are running or cycling than if you were standing still or walking, and if you do have the virus, those droplets are likely to be full of it , just hanging around waiting for the next person to walk or run through it. Wearing a mask makes this cloud of nastiness much smaller.

Add to that the fact that we know that activities which involve breathing more deeply: singing, shouting… er… running and cycling, also tend to release more virus from an infected individual.
And that “one meter” that the WHO graphic suggests really isn’t going to help a great deal.

Thus, aside from being the law, mask wearing is also a moral obligation to protect the people you are running past. (Did you bring your morals with you today, Tamara?)

So that’s why you should wear a mask while exercising.
But let’s review the two main reasons that the WHO mentions above as to why you should NOT wear a mask while exercising.

1. “It makes it difficult to breathe” – Aww. Diddums.

“If you think that running with a mask on makes it difficult to breathe, you should try having Covid-19.”

Read the stuff I wrote above and get over yourself.

2. “It gets sweaty and promotes the growth of microorganisms” – wut?

Well sure, it will get sweaty and then you’ll simply wash it when you get home and it will be clean and ready to use again.

Yes, just like you do with your clothes.

If you don’t wash your mask when you’ve been wearing it (for whatever activity, but especially exercise), it will get nasty. If you don’t wash your clothes when you’ve been wearing them (for whatever activity, but especially exercise), they will get nasty.

You wouldn’t wear your running kit for n days in a row without washing it (although this may assist with social distancing), so don’t do it with your mask. And if you still want to try and apply this weird and feeble excuse for your not wearing a mask, then please also choose to run naked.

(But also, please don’t.)

The W in WHO stands for World, which means that they are trying to talk to almost 8 billion hugely diverse people in hugely diverse communities and situations around the planet about these things.

One size will not fit all.

I’m willing to accept that if you are dancing alone in the alpine meadows of Austria…

…you are less likely to infect anyone than if you are running through the heaving streets of downtown Manhattan; that if you are deep in the Patagonian wilderness vibing to your PsyTrance with only your camper van for company, you’re not going to spread the virus like you might if you were singing opera in a busy New Delhi marketplace. (We’ve all done it.)

And of course, the WHO can’t cover each and every individual situation. I do understand that. And for Maria, pictured above, mask wearing probably isn’t necessary. She can breathe easy and not get a sweaty face. But Maria is all on her own with just the meadow flora and mountain peaks for company, and first-world Austria is well past their peak of Covid-19 infections.

It’s not Cape Town.

And no matter what you may feel about the integrity and authority of the SA Government, and the WHO, scientifically speaking, the reasons given by the SA Government for wearing a mask while exercising are very good. The ones supplied by the WHO for not wearing a mask are frankly nonsensical.

So: if you’re exercising (or doing anything else), in South Africa right now – YOU NEED TO WEAR A MASK.

End of.