Yes, Day 450 of lockdown in South Africa. That’s a lot of days, and so it seems reasonable to ask what progress we have made since late March last year.
Officially, almost 60,000 deaths from Covid-19 (although the true figure is probably much higher than that); I can’t buy any alcohol until Monday and I can’t go out after 10pm. And in the next month, I’m probably going to be at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 than ever before. 3.4% of the population have been vaccinated, although most of those have only received one of the two doses they require. Joburg’s hospitals are full and are turning away desperate patients until others die and free up beds.
It’s a deeply unpretty spectacle.
And yet, as I have previously lamented, life goes on unabated. I don’t know what it will take to change people’s mindset, but I can’t see it happening any time soon. And that means that it will likely be too late.
It’s a gorgeous sunny day here in Cape Town. High 20s and uninterrupted blue skies across the city. Fresh, clean, outdoor air is everywhere, and yet the malls and pubs are packed. It sometimes feels like I’m the only one that’s feeling this way, but there must be others also feeling vulnerable and choosing to keep themselves to themselves with just a coffee or two, last night’s braai meat, some Woolworths salami sticks and the football on the tele.
I don’t get it. And so I try to find some solace in Hungary v France.
Sometimes (often, in fact), displaying something on a graph can give far more context and relay far more understanding than using words or even numbers. That context and understanding might not be good news, but maybe in those cases it’s even more important to get the message across as quickly, efficiently and straightforwardly as you can.
This graph should do exactly that. And for those exact reasons.
Nearly 8,000 new cases in Gauteng reported yesterday. The highest number ever recorded there. Driven primarily by urban Johannesbeagle and still increasing dramatically, as the black line shows. And the likelihood is that this represents just the tip of the iceberg, with plenty (or more) anecdotal evidence that the community prevalence is actually far higher than those cases being recorded.
And you don’t have to be rocket scientist (or actually even a scientist at all) to consider what’s above and then look at these (smaller, but still equally valid and scary) graphs and see what’s coming for Cape Town soon.
Another week? Maybe two? It’s a pretty unpleasant thought.
While we’re on graphs and their significance, I thought I’d share this – adapted from a tweet by Jens von Bergmann, and used with permission.
Same graph, differing significance depending on your education/viewpoint/desired narrative.
But I guess that one point you can take away from this is by applying it to the graph at the top of the page and – once again – coming to the conclusion that things are looking very bad right now.
50 people inside still seems like far too many (and that’s because it is far too many), and research has shown that a partial alcohol ban will have very limited effect on the numbers attending hospital and therefore won’t help much from that point of view. But again (and again and again and again), economically, we can’t survive a full lockdown and the government has to be seen to be doing something. Especially with this situation:
All the other big provinces are now joining the party (I think the Eastern Cape line is hiding behind the Limpopo one). And yes, the Northern Cape is doing its own thing, but if you follow that purple plot, you can see that the Northern Cape is a bit of a law unto itself anyway. I’m guessing (guessing) that this is because the population there is so small that any outbreak at a school or workplace – which would be considered fairly minor elsewhere – shows up even on a graph scaled like this one.
Looking at the previous two waves, the next two months are going to be fairly unpleasant for us all. the problem is (aside from the disastrous vaccine rollout trickleout) full on Covid fatigue. People are understandably fed up and no-one seems to be taking it seriously anymore. And yet the signs are all there that this third wave is going to be a horribly costly. Many of those who have dodged the Covid bullets so far, whether by good fortune or simply by not going to gunfights, are going to be affected. But stick your head up above the parapet and say that, and you get eye rolls and sneers.
I stick my head up and say it anyway. Don’t take unnecessary chances, do wear a mask, do avoid crowds and indoor gatherings. Let’s face it, it’s really not that hard to do: this isn’t rocket science – it’s just science science.
Gauteng took the brunt of an awful Covid day yesterday, with well over half of all the national 8,881 new cases being reported there. The figures were so bad that you could be forgiven for missing them as they leapt by almost 60% in a single day. It’s ok, I’ve got you covered with some detail and a quick MS Paint “red arrow” job.
Yowzers. I believe that is the appropriate clinical expression, anyway.
We don’t have any regional or hotspot restrictions in place and even if we did, they wouldn’t be observed or policed correctly, and it’s too late to make any difference now anyway. We’re in for a crappy few months: the third wave is in full swing (ignore that tweet at the top there) and will inevitably spread from Joburg over the coming weeks, the vaccination programme falls further behind where it needs to be each day, the President and his well-paid Merry Men (and Women) are hugely conspicuous by their absence, and to top it all off, everything – and I mean everything – is hampered by crushingly high levels of loadshedding. We’re due to be without electricity for 7½ hours today.
Just over a week ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation regarding the Covid-19 situation here. I don’t need to go back over that speech because firstly, there wasn’t much to it, and secondly, I covered just how pathetic it was right here.
Suffice to say, the only two interventions he made in the face of a clearly incoming third wave of infections were to reduce the numbers permitted at gatherings to 250 outdoors and 100 indoors, and to extend the curfew by 1 hour: from midnight until 4am to 11pm until 4am. I commented at the time that these were unlikely to make any difference to the very worrying situation and were really just to make it look like the government were doing something. The gatherings numbers were still far too high to limit any potential spread and the extra hour would just hurt businesses that little bit more without making any difference to the number of infections.
And that’s if any of the regulations were being effectively observed, policed and enforced anyway. (They’re not.)
Unsurprisingly, the rate of new infections since the speech has increased across seven of the nine provinces. The only two outliers in this regard were the two smallest (by population) provinces: Northern Cape and Free State, which were – for the first time in their existences – both ahead of the curve for something. Sadly, it turned out to be the third wave. The rest of the country, in which 95% of the population lives, showed dramatic increases across the board:
Not pretty, but not exactly much of a shock, either.
So, as before the speech (and as before the second wave), Ramaphosa has a decision to make: either a stricter lockdown or a more deadly third wave. I’ve said before that I won’t get into the argument of whether lockdowns are a good thing or not, and I’ve also said that I am very glad I’m not having to navigate a country through a pandemic. But they’re getting paid the big bucks (and sharing the funds with their comrades) for this sort of thing, and they really should be doing much better.
Last week’s speech was never going to do anything but harm. And so it has proved.