Harsh reality of COVID-19 is sinking in

10 May 2020 

Vusi Nzapheza


As infections rise, it is becoming clear that we are in this for the long haul

Whereas sceptics had dismissed it as comparable to the seasonal influenza, the stubborn virus has shown no signs of abating. While the success of the national lockdown is open to debate, Covid-19 fatigue is setting in. No sooner than President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a relaxation of some stringent regulations to allow for the opening of some sectors of the economy than people flooded the streets in numbers.
In Cape Town, the Sea Point promenade saw unprecedented numbers of walkers and joggers take advantage of the new rules to stretch their legs.Elsewhere in the country, the beneficiaries of state welfare formed snaking queues at supermarkets after their pay day and ignored social distancing.

Regular readers of Straight & Two Beers will remember the free advice given to the Department of Social Development to spread the payment of grants evenly across the days or weeks of the month. This was long before the zoonotic Covid-19 transitioned from animals to human beings in faraway China.

This sound advice was unfortunately ignored by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), which prefers to pay beneficiaries in one day or recently, on consecutive days. This could either be done alphabetically or by regions.

The increase in foot traffic on Sassa day is just what Covid-19 loves. The contagion thrives at gatherings like queues at ATMs and shops.

The elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to severe infection of the virus, simply do not comprehend the need for social distancing at a time when hunger pangs are the most urgent business.

Have you also noticed that those doormen at stores who spray our hands with sanitisers have reduced the number of squirts? At the beginning of the lockdown, they were generous with three or more squirts but lately, they sprinkle your extended hand with one squirt. Clearly the management has told them to go easy on the expensive liquid. I doubt that some of the stuff contains the required level of alcohol (above 60%).

It remains to be seen what’s going to happen when Ramaphosa pays the R350 stipend to the unemployed next week.

The president dug in his heels and refused to relax the ban on the sale of booze despite the heavy losses to the state coffers in lost taxes. In India, liquor outlets were overrun by the thirsty masses when the government allowed them to stock up.

What is becoming clear is that we are in for the long haul as far as this pestilence is concerned. The predicted overwhelming of hospitals by corona patients is a block away as infections rise

While Madagascar claims it has found a cure in good old trusted lengana/umhlonyane, this has been dismissed by the World Health Organisation as untested, as it has not yet passed muster with clinical trials. However, this has not stopped West African countries from requesting Madagascar for supplies of the potion.

Down south, umhlonyane or African wormwood is a well-known and trusted remedy for treating fevers and even mild malaria. It’s just a matter of time before some charlatan bottles it to peddle to scared communities as more of their next-of-kin are floored by Covid-19.


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