Opinion - Getting set for a war we're not equipped for

By Aakash Bramdeo Time of article published Apr 9, 2020

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Opinion - It was in April 1917, during World War I, that America declared war against Germany.

A quarter century later, in April 1942, American troops were once again at war. This time, they were in the Philippines battling Japanese soldiers.

It was a battle the Americans would lose although, a few years later, they would emerge victorious in World War II.

Today, 78 years later, America is again at war, although this time the enemy is a virus you can’t see with the naked eye. It is a war that once again involves almost every country in the world.

As the US prepares for its toughest week in the war against the coronavirus, in South Africa our authorities know the onslaught is yet to come.

A few days ago, Dr Zweli Mkhize, our health minister, warned: “The small growth in numbers might be the calm before a devastating storm.”

He added: “Next month (April) the flu season will start and our hospitals and clinics will be flooded; this will create a fertile ground for (the) coronavirus to spread or to be masked in its presentation. We need to be aware that there might not be many further warnings before the pounding descends.”

With a growing number of health-care workers testing positive, South Africa’s front line in the fight against the virus is starting to falter. And so, the call went out for new recruits.

It came in the form of an appeal by the South African Military Health Services for civilian health-care practitioners to join the army in the fight against the coronavirus.

They want medical doctors, professional nurses, clinical associations and operational emergency care practitioners.

Denel, our state-owned arms manufacturer, is also getting on to a war footing.

This is the company that once made world-class artillery pieces like the G5 and G6, the Rooivalk attack helicopter and a variety of missiles. Now it plans to manufacture ventilators.

The company is also looking at converting its ammunition-making facilities into factories that will produce hand sanitisers. Apparently, the chemicals used to make ammunition can be used to make hand sanitisers which are the bullets needed against an invisible enemy.

The company is also looking at converting Casspirs (the armoured vehicle that came to be associated with the apartheid regime) into ambulances.

Our country is at war. And our commander-in-chief knows we are not prepared for this fight. We simply don’t have enough personal protective equipment for medical staff. We don’t have enough test kits. And we don’t have enough ventilators.

The two World Wars fundamentally changed the way we lived and there is no reason to think it will be any different this time. If you thought your life would go back to what it was before the lockdown, you had better think again.


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