In spite of all the regulations, the spread of Covid-19 will still be swifter than it would be if there was actual investment in changing people's behaviour.
It seems this 31 December we’ll be welcoming in the new year away from sea water, snuggled in at home while watching Dinner for One. Especially for the youth, that seems to be an issue and it appears no amount of regulating is going to curb that.
The thing with regulations is that when they are made, you can’t exactly auto-assume that everybody will follow them. So what you need to do is see regulations as merely one tool among a variety of tools to complement a broader plan to achieve a result.
The obvious desired result here is curbing the spread of Covid-19. The obvious problem here is that we don’t exactly have a good track record of obeying instructions… especially the kids.
From the very beginning, we saw UCT students chanting “corona” to celebrate that the university was closing and then a story about some dude trying to smuggle his lady across the Mpumalanga-Gauteng border. Lest we forget, there were also a bunch of stories of nightclubs open beyond curfew and those matrics in Cape Town who caused a bit of a stir. Street parties in Bloemfontein to fake liquor licences in KwaZulu-Natal… the list goes on and doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop.
Just this weekend, some youths stopped all traffic in a tunnel in Pretoria to throw an impromptu street party with no personal protective equipment. Of course let’s not forget the religious gatherings of 2 000 or so people.
And all this happened against the regulations issued. What does that tell us? It tells us that no matter how strict the regulations are, people who don’t want to obey, won’t obey. Look no further than the illicit cigarette trade during hard lockdown.
South Africans tend to love welcoming in the new year with a bang so even if the official police to population ratio of 1:383 was a better statistic, the cops are going to have a tough time managing the streets in case of more party outbreaks.
This is by no means an attempt to say we shouldn’t have regulations. They do perform a deterrent function and enable the police to shut down events. Both of these things are vital.
It’s just ridiculously silly if it’s expected that they will curb the spread on their own. Those who want to party, will party. It’s going to happen and it’s going to spread the virus.
There will be arrests and the police will do as much as they can but even then, they can only really act once the party has happened and the virus has been spread… and then what? Lock everybody up in the same cells?
Many people are really upset about these new regulations but I get that they are important. I’m more upset that on their own, they’re seemingly ineffective and nobody really seems to get that.
So, here we are, losing out on our good time, keeping safe and doing what needs to be done, in the full knowledge that others aren’t. Maybe it will slow the spread but the spread will still be swifter than it would be if there was actual investment in changing behaviour.
We gave up telling kids not to have sex because even with the risk of pregnancy and STDs, they were still doing it. It took us years but we finally started investing in condom education. It seems we just haven’t learned from this and we’ll find out how badly we failed next week.
Richard Anthony Chemaly -entertainment attorney, radio broadcaster and lecturer of communication ethics.
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