In his commanding Covid-19 address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “there can be no half-measures”. Yet he announced half-measures. You ain’t seen nothing yet. We are in the first phase of restrictions aimed at containing the outbreak. The state of disaster declared on Sunday is a build-up to a likely state of emergency, when more sweeping powers will be invoked. Compare what’s happening in the hardest-hit countries. We are still having it easy. Closing schools, prohibiting meetings of more than 100 people, etc is mild when you consider conditions elsewhere. For example, South African citizens are “advised to refrain from” travelling...
In his commanding Covid-19 address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “there can be no half-measures”. Yet he announced half-measures. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

We are in the first phase of restrictions aimed at containing the outbreak. The state of disaster declared on Sunday is a build-up to a likely state of emergency, when more sweeping powers will be invoked.

Compare what’s happening in the hardest-hit countries. We are still having it easy. Closing schools, prohibiting meetings of more than 100 people, etc is mild when you consider conditions elsewhere.

For example, South African citizens are “advised to refrain from” travelling to certain countries. And, “we further discourage all non-essential domestic travel”.

Churches still think they are free to decide whether to limit Easter gatherings and taxis are politely “expected to undergo sanitation”.

When lockdown is imposed, instead of being discouraged or advised to refrain, we’ll be forbidden. Full stop.

Undemocratic China led the way with strict controls. “Entire neighbourhoods are blocked off to non-residents, with security personnel patrolling to check for proof of residence. Apartments housing someone with coronavirus are forced into quarantine. No one can leave,” according to Forbes.com.

In democratic countries, China-style quarantine is more difficult. Laid-back Italy, the current global epicentre, has struggled to be tough. France has announced drastic measures, prohibiting family and other social gatherings. In Paris, all public parks and gardens have closed. In Spain, the picture is similar. Indeed, in much of Europe lockdown is more severe than we are experiencing in phase one.

All this is done to “flatten the curve” of infections, so that health facilities are not overwhelmed by a massive influx in a short time. The aim is to limit the overall number but, whatever the number, it is best spread over a longer time.

What boffins mean is easiest explained in graphs, with infections on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal. An exponential increase is not shown as a straight line, but as an ever-steepening curve. The greater the exponential increase, the steeper the curve.

The curve is flattened by slowing the rate of increase, pushing the curve down – along the time (horizontal) line, limiting pressure on health facilities. There is another curve to consider. While some countries closed schools when infections were already in the thousands, South Africa did so when we had 61 cases. We are ahead of that curve.

There are bright sides to this pandemic. One is the rediscovery of our basic humanity at every level from family, to local communities to the community of nations. With employers imposing work-from-home policies we can get to know our families better. Many will also enhance their digital skills. There is an upsurge in virtual meetings, conferences or classes.

Don’t assume we’ll all be infected. Many people are naturally immune to the virus, says Nobel laureate and Stanford professor Michael Levitt. And the roll-call of survivors grows exponentially. Some curves are good to watch. Stay calm. Wash your hands.

Covid-19 graph curves are worth watching_1

Martin Williams, DA councillor and former editor of The Citizen.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.