Coronavirus: Daily Digest #4

Hope and fear on the eve of Human Rights Day in the midst of a pandemic

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA , 19 March 2020: Parkhurst shortly after the imposed closure of bars at 6pm on thursday, where it would normally be busseling with night life , now bars and restaurants are empty and street vendors have no one to sell their goods to : [ caption] (Photo: Gallo Images/ER Lombard)

Things changed overnight in South Africa on 5 March, and it won’t be the last time it does. Daily Maverick’s Daily Digest will provide the essentials bits of information about Covid-19 in South Africa and the world each day.

BEIJING, CHINA – MARCH 16: A man wears a protective mask as he fishes with his pet dog on March 16, 2020 in Beijing, China. Since the new coronavirus covid-19 first emerged in late December 2019, more than 150,000 cases have been recorded in 150 countries and territories, killing 6,400 people. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

In China, the number of local transmissions has been zero for the second day in a row. While in Italy, the army helps transport bodies away from overburdened morgues and churches to nearby towns. 

At time of publishing today, globally, 254,417 people have the virus and 89,922 have recovered from having it, 10,541 people have died. 

There are now seven people who are confirmed to have Covid-19 in the Free State. Five of those are international travellers who attended a church gathering with between 200 and 300 other people. Two others came into contact with children who attend a school of 700 learners. 

The Red Cross has sent 286 people to assist with contact tracing in the province. An expert from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has been sent to the province, as well as a mobile testing unit from the National health Laboratory Services.

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – MARCH 16: Minister of health, Zweli Mkhize briefs the media on the details of government interventions in various sectors of the departmental portfolios on COVID-19 at DIRCO Media Centre on March 16, 2020 in Pretoria. (Photo: Gallo Images/Phill Makagoe)

Heath Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize appealed for calm. Estelle Ellis reports on the plan of action here. In total, 202 people in South Africa had tested positive for Covid-19 by 20 March.

Other ministers are fully focused on the pandemic too. The Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructure has laid out their plan of action on 19 March. With the help of provincial and local governments, it has chosen 37 of its buildings to become quarantine sites and more are to be added to the list. The sites will be used by those who can’t be quarantined at home.

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (Photo: Chanel Retief)

Minister of Co-operative Governance Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said at another ministerial briefing that more regulations might be issued as time goes on and circumstances change. She reminded citizens that:

“You do not have the luxury of refusing examination, treatment, isolation and quarantine.” 

Other regulations to take note of are those concerning the spread of fake news, the sale and consumption of alcohol and the stockpiling and price hiking of goods.

Police Minister Bheki Cele has reiterated that anyone who breaks the new rules will be arrested: “This is not to punish anybody, we are calling on people to cooperate.” Sandisiwe Shoba relays the minister’s explanation of how it’s going to work.

An SAA plane is seen at Cape Town International Airport, 27 June 2019. (Photo: Daily Maverick)

South African Airways has suspended all international flights due to the travel bans and safety risks of the Covid-19 pandemic. Business rescue practitioners have warned the airline might not be rescued, all things considered. Ray Mahlaka gives an overview of the situation.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA , 19 March 2020: Parkhurst shortly after the imposed closure of bars at 6pm on thursday, where it would normally be busseling with night life , now bars and restaurants are empty and street vendors have no one to sell their goods to (Photo: Gallo Images/ER Lombard)

For now, malls remain open. Many of their stores stock essentials, such as food and medicine, however it is not a space conducive to social distancing. Emile Gambade looks into how they are navigating all of the new regulations.

South Africa’s not-for-profit legal services are also doing their best to stay open. As Mark Heywood points out, the spread of Covid-19 does not mean that human rights violations stop. If anything, they will be exacerbated. 

Most of the organisations have suspended walk-in consultations for the time being in favour of telephonic or appointment only discussions. Meanwhile, two Wits law students have lost their bid to stop the university from evacuating students from residences.

For now, gig workers also remain on the job in South Africa. However, they may face a higher risk of infection than most because they interact with so many people each day and they may lose income for a range of reasons. However, this precarity is nothing new according to a report released this week by the Fairwork Project. 

Nomkitha Tini and Somi Marawu of Dish Food & Social. Photo: Supplied

Restaurants are bracing for a knock. Read about how restaurants in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are strategizing for their survival. Food producers, caterers and markets share their experiences of going from prepping to feed 800 people to zero overnight. Tony Jackman’s weekly column headline says it all: Bread & Scrape on Fairy Toast: How to survive a Virus Crisis without being greedy.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – MARCH 19: A general view of a woman working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic on March 19, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. It is reported that as the effects of the coronavirus are increasingly felt in the South African business environment, expect many more companies to follow international trends and encourage or even dictate that employees work from home.This is a way to limit face-to-face contact and protect staff members with compromised immune systems or other underlying health issues. (Photo: Gallo Images/ Misha Jordaan)

Some people are working from home. Malibongwe Tyilo has advice on how to maintain productivity in these trying times and how to keep up communication with colleagues.  

If you are looking to escape this world from the comfort (and safety) of your couch, look no further than Tevya Shapiro’s small screen recommendation

While some procrastinate and escape, others in South Africa are doing their bit to help the world find a treatment for Covid-19. SA is taking part in the World Health Organisation’s new global trial called SOLIDARITY. At least 10 countries will conduct trials of four potential treatments. As Marcus Low writes, the details are few but we’ll keep you updated.

Rescuers of Italian 118 Croce D’Oro prepare to recover a patient by disinfecting the ambulance for Coronavirus emergency, Milan, Italy, 18 March 2020.(Photo: EPA-EFE/Andrea Fasani)

Following tip-offs, Rebecca Davis was able to confirm that five GPs in private practice are not consulting with patients in person in order to protect staff and other patients from the virus. However, is it ethical?

The new regulations might be concrete, right there in black and white, but their ripple effect is still such an unknown. Sandisiwe Shoba investigates what the closure of early childhood development centres mean for the 2.4 million children who are now homebound and might not have proper supervision, feeding, hygiene and continued learning.

There is a whole lot of opinion and analysis to add to your weekend reading list.

Investment expert Nazmeera Moola argues that market volatility is the only certainty and business journalist Sasha Planting discusses investing in a time of Virus. Economic justice expert Dominic Brown unpacks Finance Tito Mboweni’s economic stimulus package meant to soften the blow of the pandemic.

Full Disk Earth, Apollo 17, 1972. Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash.

Political science professor Jo-Ansie van Wyk looks into how the pandemic has already changed the world and all-things-digital expert Karabo Molofo discusses how it might speed up the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Law and migration experts Jo Vearey and Sally Gandar discuss how the new regulations will impact migrant communities in South Africa and mental health researchers gives their advice on how to look after your mental health during these unprecedented times. Law professor Omphemetse Sibanda outlines what fake news is legally in South Africa and abroad and lawyers Dario Milo and Johan Thiel expand on the new regulations around Covid-19 fake news in South Africa.

openDemocracy’s Kerry Cullinan, Lydia Namubiru and Inge Snip investigate dubious claims made by some leaders.

Surgeon and activist Dr Lydia Cairncross explains why we need physical distance and social solidarity. Mark Heywood meditates on why pausing parkruns are as powerful as partaking in them each weekend.

Pregs Govender Photo by Daniel Steyn

On the eve of Human Rights Day, human rights activist Pregs Govender address President Cyril Ramaphosa directly. Her message to him: safeguarding human rights and overcoming inequality will help us overcome this pandemic.

Cape Town anaesthesiologist Dr Anthony Allwood provides insight into what it’s like to be at the frontlines of an unprecedented global pandemic – yes, right around the corner from you. DM


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted