In crises such as this, uncertainty causes hysteria; information brings calmness.
Amid the uproar around the coronavirus it is necessary to look the coming few weeks in the eye.
Extraordinary steps will be needed to counteract the extraordinary effect of the virus.
For the next two weeks the number of confirmed cases will increase – and exponentially so. Eventually, you will become fed up with news about the virus. By week two the deaths will begin.
Worldwide, the virus has a mortality rate of around 3% –- which is significant. In short, this means that one in thirty people who get it will die. The people who will bear the brunt of this burden are our most vulnerable people – the elderly, the poor and the sick.
After a month, the bigger impact –- the economic damage – will start to make itself felt. Currently, a travel ban that applies to various countries is in place and consequently there is a ban on tourists from those countries as well. The impact of this is almost immeasurable – guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes will be empty. Naturally, these businesses are going to be incredibly hard hit and they will have to start looking at costs. In extreme cases, they will have to retrench staff.
It is not just tourism that will suffer. Our main trading partners – China, the USA and Germany –are in the midst of the crisis too. As such there will be a major decline in economic activity in those countries, which is going to mean that our own production and exports will suffer seriously.
South Africa was not in a good space when this virus hit us. Our economy is currently in recession due to our own doing. Our healthcare is mismanaged and is already overburdened. The virus is going to tax existing resources and systems to the limit.
South Africa has more than 7 million people who are living with Aids– a group of people who are particularly vulnerable to a virus like this. We have a population that cannot afford to miss work, a population that has no choice but to make use of packed means of public transport. It is also a population that lives in high density circumstances and as result will not be able to self-isolate.
Although our government has announced proper steps, the problem lies with the implementation of those steps. We have seen how government’s ability has slowly eroded over the years to such an extent that government services cannot be delivered properly. To assume that government will be able to implement steps effectively in this emergency is just not realistic.
The state of affairs is really grave. No country in the world is going to be spared and no community is going to come out of it unscathed.
This virus is way too big for an individual to tackle it alone. If you think that you will survive the crisis sitting all by yourself on your couch you are wrong. Now, more than ever before, we have to stand together.
At the same time, you have to accept that government’s ability will be tested to the limit and that it would not be of significant help while the virus spreads like fire through the country.
Our hope lies in the community. Take care of yourself. Look after your immediate family and other family members. Look after your people. Our great advantage compared to the past is that our community is the best organised it has ever been in its entire history. That is our strength and that is how we are going to save ourselves.
There will be a great need for help, especially when it comes to our most vulnerable people. The difference between us coming out of this stronger and us collapsing is going to be your willingness to help. Make time to see to it that we look after the elderly, the poor and the sick.
Keep your head high. Be realistic about what is coming but don’t let fear paralyse you. We can survive the virus and all of its consequences, but we must stand together. Don’t be overcome by panic. Don’t let the virus rob us of our soul.
Let this virus rather find us as we truly are – working, building and helping others. That is who we are. This is who we have always been.
* All information was correct at the time of publication.