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Don’t let down your guard: Covid-19 is a sneaky, nast...

Defend Truth


Don’t let down your guard: Covid-19 is a sneaky, nasty beast and everyone is vulnerable


Brett Herron is GOOD Secretary-General and a member of the Western Cape provincial legislature.

As a healthy 54-year-old who is not on any chronic medication, goes to gym fairly regularly, has never smoked, and whose middle-class existence affords me access to good-quality healthcare, logic dictated that if Covid visited I should be alright. Logic, however, goes out the window the moment you start struggling to breathe.

The scariest aspect of contracting Covid-19 is the great unknown. 

More column centimetres, more broadcast minutes, more social media posts and more conversation have been devoted to this pandemic than any other public health crisis in history. 

Many of us have developed strong opinions about it, how it has been managed, how it might have been better managed, and what we should be doing to recover our health and economy. 

We can recite the defence mantra – social distancing, hand-washing and mask wearing – backwards. It really feels as if we are intimately acquainted with the beast. 

But when it comes, its menace is no less shocking. 

As a reasonably fit and healthy 54-year-old who is not on any chronic medication, goes to gym fairly regularly, has never smoked, and whose middle-class existence affords me access to good-quality healthcare, logic dictated that if Covid visited I should be alright. 

Logic, however, goes out the window the moment you start struggling to breathe. In that moment you realise how little we actually know, although we’ve been talking about virtually nothing else for nearly 18 months. 

The stories you remember are about those who died rather than the overwhelming majority who have survived. You start to develop a deep dread of having to be hooked up to a ventilator. You realise how vulnerable we actually are. 

With the third Covid wave now upon us, and South Africa being placed back on to Alert Level 3 of its pandemic management plan, many people are already feeling intense Covid fatigue. 

Many have lost livelihoods, and are saying they’d rather die endeavouring to put food on the table than watch their families starve. Their sentiments are understandable. Their teetering existence on the “wrong side” of the radical inequality fence poses a direct challenge to the state to strengthen the social security net. 

In an election period, opportunistic political parties will be looking for how best to capitalise on their disadvantage. 

The inefficiency of the vaccine roll-out plan, to date, further contributes to a climate of general anxiety. As do the conspiracy theories about the vaccine and, indeed, the pandemic. And now we’re being asked to tighten our seatbelts, again. 

I am about to emerge from quarantine, having become a Covid third-wave statistic myself. I am sharing my experience to add to people’s knowledge and, hopefully, reinforce their defences. 

I do so as a serving parliamentarian, mindful of the fact of my relatively privileged position in the great South African scheme of things. 

Three weeks ago, on a Sunday, I awoke to a severe headache, an ice-cold fever, and severe aches and pains, especially in my hips, knees and legs.  

We’ve all had colds and flu, but this felt significantly more severe and debilitating. I was unable to get out of bed. I wasn’t convinced it was Covid until I was called to be told that Patricia de Lille had tested positive. I had seen her the previous Wednesday. 

Getting tested wasn’t that easy. I googled to find a testing site near my home and got plenty of adverts for drive-through facilities (mostly in Johannesburg). 

It felt odd that despite living in the suburbs, with data to burn – and serving on the Western Cape Provincial Parliament’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Covid-19 – I couldn’t easily find a nearby location. 

I eventually selected a callout service – where a nurse would come to my home within 30 minutes to test me. It was an expensive option. All I had to do was meet her in a well-ventilated room. 

As she was leaving I reflected on how difficult it must be for the vast majority of citizens who have no options but to get up, get dressed and find a testing site – as the debilitating symptoms intensify. 

When my lab results came back positive, I alerted my GP, who told me to get lots of rest, treat my symptoms with paracetamol and call him immediately if I experienced coughing or shortness of breath. 

About five days in I developed a severe shortness of breath.  I have never called a doctor after hours before, but that evening I called my GP, who happened to be at a dinner.

He insisted that I send someone to an after-hours pharmacy immediately to pick up a prescription for a course of steroids and antibiotics. 

That evening I started using the steroids and I have just completed the course. It made a massive difference to my shortness of breath. The flu symptoms have largely subsided, though I am still aware of a tight chest and laboured breathing.  

This week I come out of isolation. I am one of the lucky ones who seem to have got off relatively lightly. But it was by no means a walk in the park.  

I have championed the health protocols put in place around the world, and been extremely aware of sticking to them. I wear a mask. I stand my distance from others. I wash and sanitise my hands. These measures kept me safe for more than a year, but somewhere along the way I got infected. 

I don’t know what lies ahead for my recovery. I will try to go back to exercise soon. I hope that the vaccine supply constraints are resolved urgently and that the World Trade Organization resolves the long-awaited patent waiver so that there can be more vaccines in production across the world. Then I will get vaccinated when my turn comes. 

My appeal to all South Africans, regardless of economic standing or political affiliation, is not to let down their guard. Don’t stop wearing masks. Don’t crowd into enclosed places – if you must be there, open the windows, even if it’s cold outside. 

And, follow scientific advice, not that of false political prophets. 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]"

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