It strikes me that there are pretty much two basic arguments about lockdowns around the world. There is the argument for blanket ends to lockdowns to let life and economies get back to some semblance of normality, then there is the save lives side which advocates for lockdowns to remain and for people to be more self disciplined in their actions.

I've read as much as I can really stomach on the whole subject, but have had my thoughts and position confirmed. You might call me a fence sitter, but I think there's a genuine middle path that can be navigated.

Firstly, we shouldn't lose sight of what the various lockdowns are about. As far as I can make out, no lockdown anywhere was ever about eradicating Covid-19, in fact they all seem to be pretty much about allowing health services time to prepare, flattening the curve (lessening infection rates) and protecting the most vulnerable. All worthy stuff that I agree with.

Using the South African example for a moment, we find ourselves sitting on day 51 with one of the slowest rates of transmission in the world and given we have a population of approximately 60m, one of the lowest death rates in the world. In fact, when you look at the the infection rate, recovery rate and death rate together, South Africa is way ahead of most countries in reducing transmission rates and flattening the curve, and for that we must congratulate our leaders.

However, with the global economy in tatters and our local economy on its knees one has to ask the question: how much more time do the health services need to prepare?  Then there's the darker side of lockdowns. No lockdown was ever meant to be punitive, and yet here we sit feeling like naughty school kids waiting for the detention bell to ring so we can go home.

I believe that the middle path should be based on trust and negotiation. In my experience, people behave according to how they're treated. Treat people with courtesy and respect and invariably they respond in like manner. Treat people poorly and the same applies. People can be trusted to do the right thing as long as they are involved in the process via open, honest dialogue and negotiation. And I'm pretty sure that the citizenry of SA understands that their role is to protect vulnerable people and slow the spread of the coronavirus through their own personal behaviour choices, so that more people can receive treatment when they need it.

But if people continue to be treated as infants or worse as criminals it will not end well.  Sadly here in SA the goodwill has by and large evaporated as government ministers have appeared to be pushing personal agendas and made decisions that have little scientific basis.

The reality is the lockdowns will have to end. It's also a reality that lockdowns cannot and do not stop the spread of the disease, they merely slow it down. Also, lockdowns can only slow infection rates down to a certain degree and once that level is hit the continuation of hard lockdowns makes no sense. Out here we've had a few of the govt's top scientific advisers speak out against the continuing lockdown. The latest is Dr Glenda Gray, a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee and chairperson of the South African Medical Research Council who is calling for an end to lockdown because from a scientific point of view it no longer makes any sense. Let that sink in... The science doesn't support the lockdown.  Read more here.

Rather, she is arguing that that non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as handwashing, wearing masks, social distancing and prohibitions on gatherings, should be put in place. In other words, the people should be trusted to behave as responsible citizens who will do the right thing if they are treated with the respect they deserve, if they are provided with the information they need and the resources to make it happen.

In all of this there has to be a balance, but locally there is no balance, just sweeping judgements and pronouncements from a govt that is too proud and arrogant to admit that it may have made a few mistakes along the way. Sadly it's the wider society that is paying the price of these mistakes as Dr Gray points out "..we are seeing children with malnutrition for the first time [at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital]. We have not seen malnutrition for decades and so we are seeing it for the first time in the hospital,". This is shocking and totally avoidable, but sadly it is a direct consequence of govt failures. South Africa stands on the edge of killing more people through its lockdown than have died from the coronavirus. That's a terrible place to be!

It's time to ease restrictions, let the economy and society get back up and running but doing it in a negotiated manner with an eye on protecting and assisting the most vulnerable rather than punishing the populace for goodness knows what. As part of the population, I think I can safely say that we generally understand that our role is to protect vulnerable people and slow the spread of covid-19 through our own personal behaviour choices, so that more people can receive treatment when they need it.

It's time to shelve personal agendas and get behind the science and the cold hard facts that the position we're in now is not working for anyone and the longer it goes on the bigger the mess will be at the end of it.

Sources and links:
Top image taken from: https://epidemic-stats.com/coronavirus/south-africa
Second image taken from: https://specialprojects.news24.com/sa-coronavirus-statistics/index.html

An interesting 'Opinion Piece': https://www.news24.com/Columnists/GuestColumn/opinion-south-africas-covid-19-strategy-needs-updating-heres-why-and-how-20200515

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