The power to save ourselves from coronavirus is in our hands
South Africa has registered its first fatality as a result of Covid-19 disease caused by novel Coronavirus. It is with deep sadness that we come to this point. Condolences to the family who lost their loved one.
The country has crossed one thousand infections in the fourth week of the first reported case of patient zero. It is clear that we are facing a major challenge with this pandemic. At first, it was those who travelled to the high-risk countries who were affected. But now, we have entered a period where there are a lot of local infections.
The greatest lesson from the countries that managed to stop the rapid rise in infections is that they acted quickly, to apply practical interventions that slow down the rate of infection and stop the spread. China is a case in point.
China locked down the cities for months, and enforce the mandatory use of masks, going as far as using drones to monitor compliance. South Africa imposed a 21-day shutdown, which is necessary to help stop the rapid rise of infections.
What we need to appreciate that the virus does not move on its own, it is the people who move around who spread it. To stop the spread of the virus, we need to curb a lot of movements.
There is currently no vaccine or a cure for this virus. Its consequences and effects are most devastating, especially the burden it places on the hospital system, and the negative social impact.
It is only limiting our movement, and reducing a human to human contact is what can save us. While the social impact may be a huge inconvenience, the consequences of doing nothing are far much frightening. This shut down is a sacrifice we all need to make to save our nation.
Nothing is more heartbreaking than hearing of medical personnel in Italy getting overstretched beyond capacity. You do not want medical staff to be forced to make decisions of who has to live or who has to die, just because there are no ways to save them. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to have your loved ones being ill, and you cannot be there to comfort them at the time of need.
As South Africans, we have a benefit of lessons from the nations that have stemmed the tide, such as China. The discipline of the citizens of China saved them. The unity of the Chinese population against Coronavirus helped them defeat it. When the people cooperated with the authorities, they did not do it for the police or army, but themselves.
As South Africans, we are a country at crossroads. We have to choose between saving the country or watching it perish as a result of rebellious conduct. We have to choose between disregarding the shutdown, versus supporting it, to save our nation. The future generations are going to remember us for the choices that we made as a nation when the time called for us to.
Coronavirus is real! We have seen its devastating consequences. In Italy, there is a funeral every thirty minutes. We have seen the catastrophic effects of Coronavirus in Spain, Iran, the US, and many other countries. Let us learn from them.
As South Africans, we are the most vulnerable of all countries that may be impacted by Coronavirus. We have the highest rate of HIV/Aids infections in the world, which already compromises the immune system, and the ability of our bodies to fight against opportunistic diseases. We have a high rate of poverty and hunger, leading to us being unable to get the nutrition required to build a strong, resilient immune system.
Our last line of defence against Coronavirus is to isolate, and avoid movement that may increase the rate of infections of the virus - through the national shutdown. Our last line of defence is national unity, to save ourselves, and in effect save others from contracting this virus. Our last line of defence is appreciating that the shutdown is not a punishment, but an intervention that is meant to save us, to save our mothers, children, and the most vulnerable in the society.
I want to commend the great leadership of President Ramaphosa at this time of need. The leadership of the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize has been nothing but commendable. And the same goes to all the other ministers, who are at the forefront of a response to the pandemic.
We have seen China beat Coronavirus, we have seen Iran flatten the curve, and slow down the rates of infection. On the other hand, we have seen the devastating effect and consequences of the virus in Italy and Spain.
The power to save ourselves from Coronavirus is in our hands, and it starts with supporting interventions such as the national shutdown. We must not falter, and this is the battle that we must not lose.
* Bathabile Dlamini is the president of the ANCWL and writes in her personal capacity.