/Adriaan Basson: Will a state of emergency wake up the Covid-19 denialists among us?

Adriaan Basson: Will a state of emergency wake up the Covid-19 denialists among us?

2020-03-23 06:00

Our numbers are growing and despite the best efforts of the government to control the outbreak of Covid-19, it will be up to South Africans to decide the extent of the public health crisis we will face when thousands of citizen suddenly need oxygen, writes Adriaan Basson


By now, you should be working from home (if you are a white-collar worker), only leave your house once or twice a week to buy enough food to sustain you for a few days and wash your hands at least 10 times per day for 20 seconds.

That is pretty much the basics required from a good middle-class citizen living in a time of Covid-19.

There are millions of us doing this and I want to thank you for heeding President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for social distancing and good hygiene.  

You are a responsible citizen, actively limiting the spread of the coronavirus to vulnerable and older people. You are saving lives.  

This column is about people with options who selfishly choose not to heed the call for behavioural change during one of the greatest crises of our lifetime. We all know a few of them.

Maybe it is you.  

I was astonished to hear over the past few days of people who continued to host and attend weddings and functions where more than 100 guests were gathered; of managers and bosses who refuse to allow their colleagues to work from home or even discuss the topic of social distancing at the office, and of people who continue to question the validity of the Covid-19 outbreak.  

Yesterday, there were even churches that continued with their services.  

You are selfish, ignorant and utterly irresponsible.  

If you need to be shocked into action by seeing what our future could be, please search for videos recorded inside Italian hospitals in the past few days.

Google stories about patients dying alone or doctors having to play God because they have too few ventilators or ICU beds. 

That is a good example of what happens when a nation drags its feet with containing the rapid spread of the virus.

We don’t want to be a second Italy.  

Ramaphosa is expected to announce additional measures to accelerate physical distancing in the next 24 hours.

This will partly be due to that fact that thousands of South Africans with options continue to ignore the enormity of the crisis we are dealing with.  

One of the options Ramaphosa was allegedly considering was declaring a state of emergency (although I doubt he will do so this round). This will mean soldiers patrolling the streets to make sure that you do not leave your house.  

All shops, except for grocery stores, will be closed and you will not be allowed to stroll in public. 

Have we reached this point as a nation, where we need soldiers in the streets to patrol our movements because we cannot do so ourselves? 

Ramaphosa’s ask of a week ago wasn’t unreasonable: distance yourself from other people.

Do not go to the office if you don’t have to. Stay away from groups of people. Cancel events and functions.  

But the selfish continue as if nothing in the world has changed. 

I’ve heard of many companies this week that did not allow their staff to work from home, even if it was perfectly feasible to do so.

The technology to conduct most of your business from home for office workers is here, available and mostly free.  

There is simply no excuse to insist that all your staff should come to the office each day where one of you may infect everyone with Covid-19.

And if you are old-school and too stubborn to change your ways, at least allow your colleagues to work from home and don’t drag them down with you (cough-cough).  

Our numbers are growing and despite the best efforts of the government to control the outbreak of Covid-19, it will be up to South Africans to decide the extent of the public health crisis we will face when thousands of citizen suddenly need oxygen.  

This is not the time to be selfish or stubborn. 

It will be a real shame if it took a state of emergency to force all South Africans to toe the line in this moment of crisis. 

– Basson is editor-in-chief of News24

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