PAINTED INTO A CORNER

I almost choked on my food last night while reading that Minister Mhkize said to News24: “We are now doing something that has not been done anywhere, lifting the lockdown in the presence of a rising rate of infections.”  This was in response to strong and increased criticism of the lock down from health professionals in his own Medical advisory panel. He further said:

“The World Health Organisation gave us a list of six criteria [for lifting lockdown restrictions] and no part of the country can actually tick them all and say they are positive.” The first two being: 

1. Disease transmission is under control.

2. Health systems are able to “detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact.

My dear Minister Mhkize, I have been jumping up and down from right at the start of the lock down, writing three letters to the president, pointing out that the lock down is unsustainable and totally inappropriate from a timing and cost vs benefit point of view. I warned that you are painting yourself into a corner from where you will not know how to get out, that you are impoverishing the people and destroying the economy while attaining very little. Your excuse of buying time to prepare the health care facilities was bought by almost the whole country but was meritless as the nature of any exponential increase is that it takes time for the numbers to reach a “proper status” coming from such a low base as we indeed had. You might as well have locked down last year. The point I am making is that you had time anyway. Medical facilities, private and state, are totally under utilised, even now. At almost R15bn a day cost to the country and no income for most of the poor, it was a poorly judged, heartless and very irresponsible decision. 

If the lock down was declared in a state of panic because not much data was available at the time, I do understand it. But since about 10 days after the declaration a lot more data came available bringing about a clearer perspective making it possible to review the lock down decision.

Yet you feel comforted in the praise you receive from the WHO. This while people queue shoulder to shoulder for kilometers to get food parcels. Do you know that your beloved Director –General of the WHO, Mr Tedros Adhanom, also praised Robert Mugabe for his commitment to public health in October 2017, to the extent that he awarded him the title of “Goodwill Ambassador” of the WHO? (He had to subsequently withdraw this as a result of  criticism and pressure). 

You also feel comforted in the fact that other developed countries also locked down. But no, you should not fool yourself by feeling comforted by this. If some sort of lock down was indeed appropriate, then ours was as mentioned way too early and secondly our economy was in a very poor state already with a sky high unemployment rate, high debt levels and disastrous economic policies. Yet, we afforded ourselves the “luxury” of a lock down without considering the consequences. 

Minister Mkhize, are you honestly of the opinion that we should remain in our current state of lock down until the WHO’s two criteria above are met? Surely not. And Minister Mkhize, how is it possible that you did not contemplate this exact scenario we are in now, having an unsustainable destructive lock down while the number of infections are picking up momentum? Surely this was the only logical outcome you must have foreseen? You surely are a clever man, being a medical doctor. Please tell us what you were thinking. (When I talk about “you”, I actually refer to the so called Covid-19 Command Council and the leaderless government.) Do not blame the Corona Virus for you finding yourself now between the devil and the deep blue sea and no place to move. It is entirely of your own making.

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