OPINION | Smart decisions needed to unmask what awaits us
Our future is rooted in the past and our past is being unsettled by the future. “The virus is rewriting our imaginations. What felt impossible has become thinkable. We seem to be learning our way into a new structure of feeling,” says Kim Stanley Robinson.
The triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality in SA have been exacerbated by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Data on Covid-19 changes frequently as infection and death figures continue to rise, hence the need for smart futuristic decision-making processes.
Decisions on relaxing regulations and moving from one level of lockdown to another should be based on the forecast and not on the past data. The new normal — virtual reality, electronic transactions, online learning and teaching, social distancing, wearing of masks, disinfection of public areas, automation of doors and gates, — should be central in our planning.
The decisions to relax regulations must not be driven by politics and economics, but by science and data.
The new normal requires re-engineering of businesses to comply and to fit into the new world order. SA is fortunate that it could learn from the experience that other countries have gone through in terms of planning for the anticipated surge in infections. The decisions to relax regulations must not be driven by politics or economics, but by science and data. As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo puts it: “Truth is truth, facts are facts, this virus doesn’t play politics, doesn’t comply to any political principles or theories”. We cannot afford to downplay this fact as the costs are too dire to contemplate.
It appears that coronavirus fatigue is starting to set in among most South Africans, as illustrated in the non-compliance of regulations and applicable health protocols. A number of interested groups are flooding the presidency with letters demanding that the economy must be opened more while others are challenging the legitimacy of the lockdown itself.
Self-centred economic interests must not be allowed to tower over our lives. These interests are still rooted in the past as most of the workplaces are not yet ready to cater for the new normal. The government must not concede to individuals who are blindly pushing for the opening of the economy. I submit that it is the duty of the government to protect the poor and the vulnerable from the economic vultures.
Without a doubt, lockdown is painful to the poor and in some cases may not be practical, but its intended outcomes outweigh the excruciating alternative. To ease the pain, the government has come up with a number of mitigating interventions including food vouchers, a special Covid-19 grant for the unemployed and various packages for companies.
Generally, the lockdown has gone a long way in reducing the rate of Covid-19 infections and deaths. A comparison of statistics with other countries when they were at a similar position attests to this point. However, we are not out of the woods yet and the clamour to further relax regulations to meet the economic interests will inflict damage to the population and will negate the noble objectives of the lockdown. While we may not agree with other propositions, we must give government enough space to do its job. The overarching principle is to prepare for the worst in order to save lives.
It appears that we do not only have to change how we physically do things in the new normal, but also change and align our cognitive abilities for futuristic decisions.
Advocate Vuyo Booysen is a senior lecturer at the University of Fort Hare and a social activist. He writes in his personal capacity.