Don’t let your guard down because SA economy won’t survive second Covid-19 surge
There are a few facts about the coronavirus pandemic which, by many people’s behaviour, one would assume was over and that we can go back to business as usual.
In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to close all restaurants and bars from November 4, but to keep schools and nurseries open; Swiss hospitals are struggling to cope with a surge in cases, calling in retired staff to relieve sick front-line workers and closing some sections for fear of reaching breaking point in just days; Russia is sending army medics to the Urals after overwhelmed doctors there pleaded for help; and Poland has recorded a record 18 820 new infections and 236 deaths, with hospitals facing shortages, turning patients away in some cases.
In America, nearly 500 000 people have contracted Covid-19 in the past week, with new cases and hospitalisations setting records in some areas, while the UN has cancelled all in-person meetings at its New York headquarters.
In Asia, India reported 43 893 new cases in the past 24 hours, and Thailand’s cabinet has extended a state of emergency until the end of November.
If these numbers are not sobering enough, our own President Cyril Ramaphosa has had to go into quarantine after a guest at a charity dinner he attended tested positive.
And this came just a day after he assured the nation that there were no plans to return to stricter lockdown levels, provided that people continued taking the requisite precautions to prevent transmission of the virus.
While we are no closer to a fully effective vaccine, shares around the world fell on Wednesday as infections grew rapidly, fuelling fears of possible strict lockdown measures that could damage already fragile economic recoveries.
Locally, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said that the economy was expected to contract by 7.8% this year, with the outlook for next year uncertain. Our economy will not survive a “second surge”, which will necessitate locking down the economy again. And the European, American and Asian experiences show us that a second surge is virtually guaranteed if we let our guard down.
Don’t listen to the crackpot conspiracy theorists. Avoid socialising in groups, sanitise regularly and maintain physical distancing in public settings.