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Opinion - 'We are not safe - heed the Covid-19 warnings'

The first patient arrived in the new intensive care unit, built in a tensile structure, at the San Raffaele Hospital. Picture: Claudip Furlan La Presse

The first patient arrived in the new intensive care unit, built in a tensile structure, at the San Raffaele Hospital. Picture: Claudip Furlan La Presse

Published Mar 27, 2020

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ITALY went from Stage 1 to Stage 6 in three weeks - South Africa is following.

With the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), we didn’t know it was going to happen, that’s in the past.

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We don’t know what is going to happen, that’s in the future. What we do know is that Covid-19 is here, and each one of us will be impacted and/or infected. That’s in the present.

The nature of the mind is to swing from the past to the future. It is rare to be still grounded and in the present. The past is history, where we store emotions of guilt and regret.

The future is a mystery. The now is storing emotions of fear and anxiety. The present moment is a “Present from the Divine”.

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Now is the time to be in the moment, accept, respond dynamically and turn pain into gain, with a smile on your face.

South Africa, like Italy, moved from Stage 1 to Stage 6 in just three weeks. Allow me to share the Italian story, which is similar to our own.

STAGE 1: When the first cases of Covid-19 appeared in Italy, everybody continued with their normal routines, feeling that it was no big deal.

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STAGE 2: Around February 22, the number of cases started to increase significantly. Italy declared “red zone” and quarantined some cities where they found the first cases, and with a significant increase.

There was hype in the media, which was largely ignored. Most people went to work, socialised at coffee shops, bars, and restaurants or at their normal

hangouts.

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News of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and two of his assistants, testing positive and in quarantine, had no bearing. I am safe, was the general attitude.

STAGE 3: By March 7, the number of cases grew exponentially with more deaths recorded. Italy declared red zones and quarantined the four regions where the majority of cases were registered.

Almost 25% of the country was under quarantine, the economic hubs of Italy. Schools and universities were closed in these areas, but life continued as normal.

Some media outlets published the decree beforehand and this prompted around 10000 people from the red zone areas to immediately commute across Italy, to return home and join their families.

This was disastrous, as the virus spread across the country. We cannot afford for this to happen in South Africa, knowing that most of our people travel back home for Easter.

When popular politicians publically declared that they were infected and in self-isolation ,the public did not believe them, writing it off as a stunt to gain publicity.

People did not acknowledge the seriousness. Citizens were advised to wash their hands and limit going out, large groups were forbidden.

Every five minutes you are reminded of these rules on TV and other

communication platforms. People still didn’t get it!

Allowing gatherings of less than 100 in South Africa is a grave mistake that has to be corrected.

STAGE 4: The number of cases increased heavily. Schools and universities were closed countrywide, for at least a month. Hospitals were full to capacity; other units were cleared to make space for Covid-19 patients. The number of doctors and nurses were not enough.

Retired medical practitioners and medical students, in their last two years of university, were called to assist.

Medical workers laboured around the clock and many got infected, spreading the virus to their families and loved ones. 

The cases of pneumonia and patients needing ICU spiralled, creating a shortage of beds and ventilators. Doctors had to choose who to treat, based on their chances of survival. 

People died because there was no more space, the system collapsed. Covid-19 and the crisis were uppermost in everyone’s minds, but disobedience was evident.

Over 70000 people were fined. Most South Africans are rebels without a cause, but this time we must obey.

STAGE 5: By March 9, the entire country had to be declared under quarantine, as Covid-19 spread throughout the country, mostly due to the 10000 people who fled the red zone and travelled across the country. The goal was to delay the spreading of the virus and “Band-Aid” the economy from collapsing.

People got concerned, yet thousands of people ignored the instructions of the government. We have to effectively prevent local travel and charge people criminally, for culpable homicide, if they do not comply and agitate, particularly if they are tested positive with the virus.

STAGE 6: By March 11, it was announced that all businesses were to close, with some exceptions.

People can move around only if they have a certificate with them. The certification is an official document where you declare your name, where you’re coming from, where you’re going and the purpose to be out. Thousands of people got fined for non-compliance.

We have to comply. The aim is to stop the virus from spreading and flattening the curve. Whatever we resist, will persist, we have no choice but to comply. If you can’t go outside, go inside, pray and meditate.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and the government of South Africa have acted decisively and are doing the right things. It appears like we are better off in comparison to Italy.

This is not so, we are slightly behind but following on the same road. The worst is still to come. It could be you or your loved one that the doctor decides not to treat.

We are entering a really sad space. As citizens, we have to follow the instructions given to us by our government. We must be responsible, caring, and compassionate, opening our hearts to selfless service and charity.

We must drop our past to build the future. We have no choice but to accept people, situations and circumstances, as they are. We are one race, the human race. We are a one world family. Don’t worry - be happy. Be disciplined.

Soni is a South African ambassador

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