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.

Day 74 – A tweet about Italy

It’s weird.

We’re in the midst of a viral pandemic: one which has hit South Africa probably a couple of months after the country in which you might be reading this. (So I mean “now”). And yet, if it weren’t for the ongoing grumbling about not being able to buy cigarettes or inability to go to pubs and restaurants, you wouldn’t really know.

In Cape Town, people are meeting up with friends and family as if there’s nothing unusual going on. There are braais, walks, runs together – sometimes even with individuals in the well-publicised “vulnerable” demographics*. (Dafuq?!?) It looks like an entirely normal life, albeit one set against the backdrop of exponential infections, a struggling health service and a ever-steepening death rate.

And yet, the very first instruction in the Level 3 restrictions is:

You must remain at home at all times… 

It’s really not rocket surgery.

Social media is full of photos of people out and about with friends: sometimes masks on, sometimes masks off. But “it’s so uncomfortable to wear them all the time” and “you have to speak so loudly” and “it’s not like we’ve got the virus anyway” so I think that we can all guess what the situation is when the camera isn’t on.

What will it take for attitudes to change? Previously, I’ve guessed that it would be people being personally affected, but given the completely blasé approach from even well-educated, apparently intelligent people, I’m wondering if even that will have any effect.

So will attitudes change at all? Experience from other countries suggest that it would probably be a very good idea:

 

 

Sure, you can point to the numbers and the apparently extremely low chance you have of getting the virus, but remember that we’re so overwhelmed in Cape Town right now that we’re not even testing most people anymore (already a red flag, no?), and so you need to be aware that most local cases aren’t included in those figures anymore. And then there’s the “teeny tiny” death rate and the knowledge that most cases are mild, self-limiting, don’t kill you etc. I agree. It could give one an unfounded sense of security.

But in white SA, we’re (sadly) well used to other horrific health epidemics like TB and HIV, and those are problems which affect other cultures, not us**. We’re not used to having these problems in our houses and our immediate environs. So maybe this general indifference is because people think that this won’t affect them either.

Additionally, many of us are used to having decent private healthcare available whenever we need it via pricey health insurance packages. So maybe we need to have more than just numbers for “new positives” and “new deaths” each day. And since “didn’t die, but health was left so damaged that they’ll never be able to lead a normal life again” is a bit vague, maybe “available local hospital beds if you or one of your family gets sick” would be a good idea.

[Spoiler: Not very many right now. Likely even fewer tomorrow.]

Yes, yes, yes… I do recognise that I am banging my head against a wall. Shouting into the void. And I genuinely hope that you are not personally affected – whatever your behaviour over the lockdown period. But I don’t think that people understand how serious this is right now in our city, our province or our country. And I really don’t know how we change that.

 

* If you think this is about you, you’re probably right.

** I’m well aware that this is a gross oversimplification of a number of complex issues, but this post isn’t about them.

Day 59 – Another address

Not me. I’m very much still at the same address.

Quiz news: We quizzed last night (joint first after a disastrous collapse in the popular culture round) (and I was one day off on the date of the sinking of the Titanic earlier in the evening) (unforgivable).

I’m doing a friends’ UK quiz this evening.

I have a quiz on Wednesday.

As far as socialising goes, that’s it, but it’s valuable time with friends and we’re very grateful for it. We need that bridge to sanity, even if I did awake in a cold sweat at 3am dreaming about the 14th/15th April 1912.

As the worst of the pandemic hits Cape Town, the President is due to make another address this evening. 7pm, he says, but he’s not been on time for one yet. This is to announce (we think) a relaxation in the lockdown for some/most/probably not all of the country. The government has lost the faith and  support of the nation on the lockdown. It’s not going well.

The kids are 8 days away from a potential return to school, by which time the virus in Cape Town will be at the highest levels ever seen. The jury is still out whether this return is a good idea or not – or if it’s even going to happen. Maybe we’ll get some direction this evening. Maybe not. Probably not.

Our lockdown was meant to allow time for the healthcare system to prepare for the virus. Did we delay the start of the worst phase? Yes, probably. Has it made any difference? I’m not sure. We’re still being completely overwhelmed by the numbers. Would we have been more overwhelmed if this had happened two months ago? It seems hard to believe, but who knows?

But we can’t go back and do things differently: we don’t have a time machine, and even if we did, what sort of muppet would head back to late March and wait for the virus to hit SA? I know that there are some pretty stupid people out there, but honestly.
That would be like going back to the Grand Staircase of the Titanic on the 13th April 1912.

Safe for 24 hours then, at least. [swearword]

Sorry. I digress. Often.

If the purpose was to ready the healthcare system, then whether or not we managed to do that, there is very limited purpose in keeping the lockdown on: even in Cape Town, capital of the African branch of the pandemic.

Many people will be looking forward to being allowed to purchase alcohol and cigarettes again, but it’s doubtful that we’ll be allowed both – we might not even get either. Decent research shows that the prohibition on these items has been wholly unsuccessful and has generated a significant and structured black market which will likely continue after the lockdown and which will supply funds to organised crime.

So that’s good news. If you like organised crime.

Depending on what is announced this evening, tonight (and by tonight, I mean tomorrow, because we all need our sleep and it’s going be stormy and cold here this evening) could bring a huge celebration or widespread rioting.

Rest assured that I’ll bring you all the news from the streets with my bottle of petrol (or beer) in hand.

Keep safe. Keep well. Put a damn mask on.