The storm is upon us and we are not ready

President Cyril Ramaphosa's address to the nation on Sunday, July 12 2020 was more stern than usual.
President Cyril Ramaphosa's address to the nation on Sunday, July 12 2020 was more stern than usual.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s sixth Covid-19 address to the nation was the usual mix of alarming statistics, policy incoherence and mixed messaging.

The state of disaster was extended to mid-August, the ban on the sale of alcohol was reinstated, the night curfew is back, and the wearing of face masks is now mandatory.

Like it or not, there is at least something to be said for some of these measures. The disaster that is Covid-19 has ramped up to the point where infections are growing by over 12,000 a day – 500 an hour.  Hospitals – particularly in the Eastern Cape, where even pre-pandemic the health system was  on the brink of collapse – are taking enormous strain and most are not coping.

Alcohol sales resulted in substantial pressure on hospital trauma units, reducing the time and scarce resources these institutions have to devote to the flood of Covid-19 patients.  Most of these and other traumas reportedly occur at night, perhaps justifying the curfew. The wearing of masks has been proven beyond doubt to curb the spread of infection. Making it mandatory makes sense.

But that is where logic and common sense ended. Allowing local taxis to load to 100% capacity is absurd and dangerous. It literally turns taxis into vehicles of infection. It can only be that the politicians are pandering to a powerful lobby with ownership and other tentacles that reach deep within government. There can be no other logical explanation.

Allowing local taxis to carry at 100% capacity is absurd and dangerous

Casinos and restaurants continue to function but visiting family is once again taboo. You can gather in groups of 50 to mourn the departed but you cannot find comfort with your family while alive.

There is much Ramaphosa did not say. He did not speak to the mismanagement and inefficiency which has left our desperately needed field hospitals empty. He did not explain why the lockdown was not adequately used to prepare our teetering health system to cope with the “storm that is upon us”. Testing, treatment and prevention capacity in provinces like our own is shockingly inadequate.

Government failure means citizens will have to step up to the plate. Safety nets offered by most governments are, in our country, porous and weak.  Stay at home if possible, practice physical distancing and  wear masks.

In all of this we will also be dealing with icy, devastating weather patterns and intensified load-shedding.

The storm predicted four months ago is upon us and we are not ready.

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