‘Take a broomstick to Covid-19, wash your hands and you should be OK’
Experts reiterate hygiene, social distancing protocols, but say SA is moving too slowly out of lockdown
SA’s Covid-19 infection numbers are set to soar as the country comes out of lockdown and people head back to work — and drop their guards.
South Africans will have to adapt to new ways of living as the pandemic plays out over the next few months.
“There is not going to be a wonder cure,” said SA Medical Association chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee. “This [virus] will be with us for 18 months to two years.”
Even as infections rise, sticking to simple, proven behaviour will help to keep you safe.
“You have to keep the length of a broomstick around you,” said Coetzee. “This is the new us.”
With parents concerned about sending their children back into the classroom, Coetzee said schools will also have to adjust.
Despite evidence that children are less likely than adults to contract Covid-19, the days of two youngsters sitting next to each other at a desk are gone.
“Teach your child two things — the broomstick and washing hands,” Coetzee said.
Damian Hacking, eHealth activity manager for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), said the organisation is reiterating its long-standing advice that people maintain a distance of at least 2m from others at all times and ensure proper handwashing after touching surfaces other people might have contaminated.
“One of the advantages of this virus is that if you do these two things well, you can almost guarantee you won’t get infected.”
The two areas where people need to be careful are on public transport, as more people start returning to work, and in situations where people contravene the rules by interacting socially.
Maintaining a 2m distance on public transport is difficult, if not impossible.
“It is up to individual passengers to ensure the 70% capacities are enforced. Taxi drivers also need to make sure they enforce the 70%-capacity limit and do not put pressure on passengers to make that decision,” Hacking said.
“If you are a passenger and you see that the taxi is full, do not get on.”
The second risk is the now-proven transmission between family and friends.
With level three and restrictions on alcohol sales being relaxed, people might be tempted, for example, to invite their neighbours over for a drink or a braai, or visit their families.
“We know that most of the transmission happens among family and friend networks, because people tend to let their guards down a bit,” he said.
“When they are in public spaces, such as banks and shopping malls, they are much more aware of transmission, so they do maintain the social distance and wash their hands.”
Prof Andries Jordaan, of the University of the Free State’s Disaster Risk Reduction Research Centre, said the country was moving too slowly out of lockdown.
“We cannot avoid the peak,” he said.
Jordaan said higher infection rates in the Western Cape were probably the result of “aggressive” testing, “[but] they might peak much earlier”.