It is now our responsibility to take care of ourselves and those around us. We need to play our part if we are to overcome the crisis. It is only if we take collective responsibility to curb the spread that we have any chance of defeating the virus. We have to go back to first principles of hygiene, social distancing and wearing facemasks when we are outside of our homes. We must discourage those around us from being reckless.

I have always been fascinated by the belligerent post 1994 sentiment, often expressed by those who preferred to be silent before, “Nobody can tell me what to do!!!” And these days this expression often precedes one or other inconvenient covid-19 regulation. The justification aligned to this faux defiance is often to ridicule the substance of the perceived injustice. Social media provides an ideal platform to express this rage. A few weeks ago, many shops required the customers to queue up outside the store as only a limited number of customers were allowed into the store at any given time. I was shocked at how many of these people, some with masks below the nose, ignored the social distance regulations as they pushed forward to take whatever they wanted off the shelves. The disregard for the well-being of others is simply overwhelming. If wearing a face mask is a sign of respect to others, then we have a huge number of disrespectful people amongst us.

I am so fearful now that the virus is starting to fulfill the predictions that our scientists made those many months ago. As I hear of more and more of people in my immediate circle who are afflicted by the pandemic, I really think we need to stand back and take stock of the situation.

Derisive references are made to how the taxi industry is “allowed” to carry on. And how overloaded taxis are super-spreaders of the disease and yet they are allowed to carry passengers at 100%. What amazes me is how many who complain about the latitude given to the taxi industry fail to see that it is the taxi industry that ensures that the economy can be opened, even if the opening is only limited. Then there are the ones who say, well if people can go to church or visit casinos then I am going to visit my parents/family. Nobody can really stop you from visiting whoever you wish to visit. We are asked not to visit family and friends so that we can try to contain the spread of the coronavirus. We need to remind ourselves constantly that it is the aged, and those with underlying health issues that are the most vulnerable. Whatever happened to the acknowledgement from a few months back that we have to assume that we are all infected and that the virus spreads through people to people contact?

I always find it useful to look beyond our borders to see how other countries are trying to deal with the pandemic. To state the obvious, the covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the global economy. In Lebanon there have been street protests and rioting because of the way covid-19 has impacted on that economy. In Brazil digging mass graves have been the only option to bury the large number of Brazilians who have died. In Israel as covid-19 spins out of control, the economy is rapidly going down the tubes. This is the situation all over the world, from Iran to Italy to Spain. The picture becomes more interesting if we look at what is happening in the United States because we are grappling with many of the same issues.

In the United States, because of poor leadership at a national level, and with the death toll reaching almost 150 000, State officials and city mayors are now looking for solutions outside of the federal guidelines.

In California 8000 prisoners have been released from jail early because of covid-19. The state aims to up that number to approximately 10 000 by the end of August as a way to restrict the transmission of the disease amongst the inmates. (The famous San Quentin prison released 500 inmates early after seven others died from covid-19). So the decision by our government to release low risk prisoners from our many overcrowded prisons is not unique.

Testing is proving to be a problem worldwide due largely to a shortage of testing material as well as the unprecedented pressure on testing laboratories. Long queues are a daily scene outside testing facilities in the US with a waiting period for results of between 8 and 10 days. Here in South Africa, testing has been considerably ramped up over the past few weeks and after some hitches initially, the turnaround time for results is now far shorter. New testing procedures have also been approved that will confirm those who are immune. As scientists around the world pool their collective knowledge new information evolves in the fight against the scourge.

The debate around face masks should subside now that Donald Trump has finally conceded. So, it is far from true that our government has not done anything to intervene in tackling the impact of the coronavirus. If we compare South Africa to many other countries, we realise that things could have been much worse. Comparatively speaking, our current mortality rate is less than half the global average. This is in part due to the fact that government was very proactive early on. There was good communication strategy in place, and it was clear that the experience that our primary health care workers had gained in dealing with the AIDS pandemic was paying off. Community tracing protocols were already in place, as was a trained team of thousands of primary care workers who were familiar and who already had experience of doing the same for HIV patients. The commitment from the private sector in many areas assisted in helping government prepare for what was to be inevitable. Private and public hospitals have come together to make as many beds available to cope with the inevitable demand. Field hospitals and quarantine quarters have also been built and are in place. Like every other country in the world, we have discovered that there was no avoiding the surge.

It is now our responsibility to take care of ourselves and those around us. We need to play our part if we are to overcome the crisis. It is only if we take collective responsibility to curb the spread that we have any chance of defeating the virus. We have to go back to first principles of hygiene, social distancing and wearing facemasks when we are outside of our homes. We must discourage those around us from being reckless. Understand that your bad behavior impacts on others around you. Now, more than ever, we need to stand together. We all have a role to play.