Day 62 – A bizarre decision

Last night, the President announced that from June 1st, religious gatherings of up to 50 people would be permitted again.

I’m going to get straight in there and suggest that this is a stupid, populist decision which will mean more Covid-19 hotspots, more pressure on the health services and more deaths.

Throughout the lockdown, the SA government has made a number of decisions which appear to have absolutely no basis whatsoever in science or reason.

– You can buy closed-toed shoes, but not flip-flops. Why?
– You can’t buy cigarettes “because they are not healthy”, but alcohol can go on sale again on Monday. Silly.
– You can only exercise between 6 and 9am. Even though busy pavements make for greater risk of infection.

But this one is different.
This one has got scientific evidence all over it: it’s just that the evidence all points to not allowing religious gatherings of up to 50 people.

Churches and places of worship all over the world have been highlighted as epicentres of infection since the pandemic began:

In France: “‘Spreading at our church was so strong’, says French doctor infected with COVID-19”

In Germany: “More Than 100 in Germany Found to Be Infected With Coronavirus After Church’s Services”

Already infamously, in Korea: “Why a South Korean Church Was the Perfect Petri Dish for Coronavirus”

In the USA: “California megachurch linked to spread of more than 70 coronavirus cases”

And in… er… South Africa: “Entire church congregation being traced in response to coronavirus in Free State”

And they allow this, now? Really?

(We would have more cases if we had any test kits left to use to detect them.)

It might seem that I’m only singling out religious gatherings for criticism here, but it wasn’t me that chose that. Cyril did that when he told us that they’re the only gatherings which will be allowed.

I might rail against family braais, but I don’t have to, because I can’t have a family braai in my back garden with 2 visitors who I know have been observing all the rules and regulations for 9 weeks in case we spread the infection.
I can, however, spend 3 hours in an enclosed space with 49 strangers, singing and dancing.

I would have shouted about them re-opening restaurants, but that’s not necessary, because my friend can’t re-open his restaurant for even 10 people to have a burger at lunchtime in case anyone there has the virus.
Still, it’s fine for the post-service Sunday morning tea to go ahead.

[A no contact delivery service is available, though.]
(for the restaurant, not the Sunday morning tea)

To be honest, I probably wouldn’t fight about people sitting on a beach, on their own. Sadly though, I can’t sit on a beach on my own. But I can sit next to someone who didn’t wear a mask when they went to the supermarket yesterday. Or the day before.

I’ve got nothing against religious gatherings. But the dichotomy stinks.

However, it’s likely that when Cyril comes up for re-election, he will gently remind the pastors of yesterday evening, and they will nudge (what’s left of) their flock to vote for him. Some method in his madness, then.

But it still really is madness.

 

UPDATE: An interesting take here from UWC’s Andries du Toit.

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.

Day 57 – Drink SA wine today please

The SA wine industry has been roundly shafted by nonsensical Government regulations since the Covid-19 outbreak began. First of all there is the ban on alcohol sales in South Africa itself – which is still ongoing. Added to that was the fact that for the first couple of weeks, winemakers weren’t even allowed to go into the wineries. Thankfully the harvest went ahead, but then there was a ban on transport and export of wines, which has only just been lifted.

It’s costing the industry a huge amount of money.

The South African wine industry is “in freefall”, losing millions a week since the lockdown began, and commentators at all levels have excoriated the government for its handling of the crisis.

According to some sources the industry has lost ZAR650m (£27m) since late March. Wines of South Africa puts the figure in lost exports at R175m (£7.49m) a week.

And that why wine producers around the world are pulling together and supporting an initiative by trade body Wines of South Africa (WOSA) with a new social media campaign to show solidarity with the country’s winemakers.

ssatastingtogether-002.jpg

Here are some details:

#SpectacularSouthAfrica encourages trade and consumers alike to open a bottle of South African wine on Friday 22 May to support the country’s embattled wineries.

To get involved in the campaign, share a photo of yourself on social media enjoying a bottle of South African wine on Friday 22 May, tagging #SpectacularSouthAfrica.

I don’t do social media campaigns often, but I’ll certainly be doing this one. And I’d encourage you to do the same, please: wherever in the world you may be.

My orders for local wine have been sitting at the appropriate distributors just waiting for governmental permission before they can be released, but fortunately, The Stash is still in decent enough shape that I can support this. Even if it wasn’t, I’d certainly make a plan.

And let’s face it: there must be many worse ways in which you could help out a struggling industry. You will enjoy this one.

Day 55 – Places to go

Since we’re still not allowed out (much), I’ve had a quick scoot around some places you can go on the internet.

First off, I watched the Headstock stream marking the 40th anniversary of the death of Ian Curtis (I mentioned it here). UWS have posted the video on Youtube.
I highly recommend it, but if you only have a few minutes, then Kodaline (@1:14:35) and and Elbow (@1:50:26) were particular highlights. Also, some great interviews with Steven Morris and Bernard Sumner. Sadly, there were technical issues with the choir version of Love Will Tear Us Apart as the finale, which was rather disappointing and frustrating.

Next up, remember when I accidentally drove through the Addo National Park?

I knew you would.

SANParks have a live streaming camera set up on one of the waterholes there, so you can live vicariously through their lens.

It is live and wholly unedited, so you might not see anything when you click through, but we spotted warthogs and an elephant there yesterday.

And if the Eastern Cape isn’t your thing, you can find other SANParks cameras here.

Or, go and read this piece on why Cape Town has 10% of the the cases of Covid-19 on the whole African continent. (Can/could any other city claim a similar honour, worldwide?)

They mention tourism and three “super-spreader” events in their analysis, but the tourism thing wouldn’t have resulted in such a late surge of cases (from early May), given that there were no flights into CPT for 6 weeks before the graphs started to look quite so scary. In addition, my contacts at the local NHLS labs say they are only aware of one of the three “hotspots” mentioned in the article, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

Our kids are meant to be going back to school from the start of June, but the messages are all horribly mixed-up. By that point, the situation in Cape Town will be worse than at any point so far, we will still only be allowed out for 3 hours exercise each morning, and for essential shopping. We won’t be allowed out in open spaces like on beaches or the local National Park. The 8pm-5am curfew will still be in force.

But our kids will be ok to sit next to each other and in front of several teachers for 5 hours each day at school?

How does that even begin to make sense?

If we’re meant to try to avoid contracting the virus – for our own safety and for the good of the healthcare systems – then lock us all down. Don’t sent the kids out to catch it and bring it back into our homes. And yes, I know that stats about kids getting it less and spreading it less. And that’s great. But books, pens, folders, bags etc…
And less isn’t zero. Kids staying at home can’t spread what they don’t have.

But if you should have a health problem that puts you into a high risk category for Covid-19, the Department of Basic Education shares this little gem:

“Parents with chronic conditions are encouraged to not come into close contact with their kids that are attending school.”

Right. Easy and straightforward.

The piecemeal approach that’s currently being vaunted is ridiculous and contradictory. Either lift the lockdown (which clearly isn’t working here at the moment anyway) and send the kids to school, or keep everyone home.

It’s the dichotomy that pisses me off.

And what about teachers who fall into high risk categories?
Eish, don’t get me re-started.

I appeared to have digressed a bit. Sorry.

Right. One more idea: go and do a virtual tour of a famous museum or gallery and learn about some paintings. I wandered around the Eiffel Tower yesterday. Great views. Very quiet.