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It’s literally in our hands to beat the second wave

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Jillian Green is a Daily Maverick managing editor.

Don't leave it all to government to beat Covid-19, you have a responsibility too.

First published in Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper

In a year like annus horribilis 2020, when everything has seemingly gone for a ball of chalk, it’s easy only to see how terrible things are. To look at the world through Covid-19-coloured glasses…

That’s how this column was supposed to start. The plan was to focus on some good things and positive developments that 2020 has brought us. It will have to wait for another day, probably in the very distant future.

With the announcement that South Africa is now experiencing a second wave of coronavirus infections, it seems we have much to do before we can celebrate.

Except that’s just the trouble. We were too quick to celebrate the lockdown being eased, the economy opening up, and that we could gather socially. We reverted to pre-lockdown behaviour almost immediately. We dropped our guard, we said we were covid-fatigued.

Businesses and restaurants started operating as normal – first with strict rules, then more relaxed. “You don’t have to wear your mask, we [the service staff] will do so,” was the response when I asked why customers at a popular Joburg coffee shop were unmasked.

Modellers initially predicted that a second wave would hit South Africa in late January or early February – when holidaymakers returned and the working year kicked into gear. Instead, we have hardly started the festive season break and it’s here.

Just drive through any hip and happening strip in any town in the country and you will see why. Bars are throbbing with maskless young people potentially unwittingly carrying and sharing the virus with each other and those they come into contact with after a night out on the town. Spare a thought for the elderly and those with comorbidities in their paths.

What we have clearly forgotten is that the virus did not disappear with the easing of lockdown. Active cases and deaths decreased. Lockdown levels decreased and with it our resolve to protect ourselves and others. Now a price is to be exacted.

On 9 December, 6,709 new cases of Covid-19 were reported, inching us ever closer to the million case mark. Total cases stood at 828,598. More than

22,574 people – all someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, wife, husband, child, friend – have succumbed to the virus already.

But it’s perhaps these very numbers that make us so blasé. They are too large to contemplate. Too amorphous. Too distant. Until it hits home.

We should not wait until we are personally affected to make a change. Life is too short for regrets, especially when you know what you have to do.

We can’t blame the government for the continued spread of Covid-19.

As a country, we got behind the hard lockdown understanding that, as difficult as it was, we had to do it to buy ourselves time to prepare our health system to deal with the influx of sick people. But lockdown was not an elixir to the virus.

Another hard lockdown, as tempting as it may be, is not going to prevent the second wave, or subsequent outbreaks. The country’s battered economy needs some TLC so that the secondary effects of lockdown – increased hunger and widespread job losses, among others – can be softened.

And significantly we can’t expect the various arms of government to police our behaviour – Collins Khosa paid too dear a price for that. The only thing, bar an effective and quickly rolled out anti-Covid vaccine (for now just a dream for us Saffers), that can stop the spread of this virus is our personal actions.

It’s up to you and me.

And, in truth, it’s rather simple.

Wash your hands/sanitise regularly. Wear your mask. Keep your distance.

It’s literally in our hands to save lives. DM168

Jillian Green is a Daily Maverick managing editor.

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"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]"

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