The Covid-19 pandemic has not only brought with it pain, misery and death, but has also come with valuable social, political and health lessons on how to better respond to such phenomena.
In March the government imposed what was considered one of the strictest lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19, including bans on alcohol and tobacco sales, dog walking and jogging.
Now, 300 days into the lockdown, the country has finally secured Covid-19 vaccines and the health system has improved in saving lives – but the economy remained in dire straits, while the relationship between the police and communities continued to decay.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in March last year the country would be in a lockdown for just 21 days, businesses were shut, schools closed and law enforcement deployed to stop those found in the streets.
While there were some successes, particularly in the healthcare sector, the country made some blunders in one of the longest lockdowns in the world, said experts.
2020 was not only one of the deadliest, but also one of the costliest years in the history of South Africa.
Covid-19 and the 300 days and counting of lockdown, meant to contain the spread of the virus has cost South Africa millions of jobs, economic growth and tourists, while the alcohol and tobacco ban saw the country lose billions in lost revenue.
Herd immunity to deadly, infectious diseases cannot work without a vaccine, unless you allow millions to die unnecessarily.
This was according to epidemiologist Jo Barnes in the wake of heightened scepticism about the global Covid-19 vaccination drive.
While some have theorised that one simply needed to let populations become infected without lockdown restrictions in order to speed up the process of herd immunity, Barnes warned that nowhere had this ever been carried out without dire consequences.
In the 300 days since South Africa first went into lockdown, on average more than 1,000 people have been arrested every day for contravening the Disaster Management Act and the regulations published under it.
Last week, Police Minister Bheki Cele said more than 342,000 people had been arrested and charged under the Act.
“We have seen it all, from the patients who are paranoid about catching the virus to the patients who actually die from
the virus,” says Xander Loubser, paramedic and spokesman for Ambu-link.
Loubser also works shifts in various intensive care units where he assists patients with airway treatment.
“My colleagues are exhausted. The second wave of infections has definitely taken its toll on healthcare workers. Exhaustion has a new meaning.”
Covid took my friend. For three weeks he was in a death battle with this virus and he lost – with no wife to hold his hand, no kids to hug him, no friends to whisper in his ear that he is so much more than just a good doctor.
He died all alone and, being a Hindi – “albeit a naughty one, I married a Muslim” – was buried all alone.
I couldn’t sing his praises; no women allowed at the grave. In fact, when I got the news five hours after his death, he was already covered with red soil.
Covid-19 has exposed how even governments as ostensibly liberal as South Africa’s can abuse their authority in times of crisis and how political power sometimes trumps the need to save lives.
This was the sentiment of analysts in the wake of the government facing political pressure to open up about its Covid-19 vaccination plan and policy.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s political fortunes have risen and the ANC has benefitted from his personal handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, while he has managed to politically suffocate all other parties to emerge as a champion in the anti-pandemic fight.
This is the view of political economic analyst Zamakhaya Maseti, who was reflecting on the 300th day since the declaration of the Covid-19 lockdown.