There is nowhere to run — a Covid-19 breakout can occur anywhere.
Despite case numbers rising daily, head of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Covid-19 war room Prof Mosa Moshabela said the lockdown has been successful.
“When everyone is at home, we limit social interactions. We were never able to keep all people at home as essential workers were at the forefront. Even when people were staying home, we had outbreaks from hospitals, shops, police and so forth.
“We relaxed some rules and people engaged more.
“As long as there is a degree of social interactions, we will have an increasing number of infections. But had we not done the first hard lockdown we would have had a higher number. We have slowed it down a lot because we bought ourselves time, and coming out now in level four more people are engaging hence the high[er] number [of infections], but it does not compare to what would have happened if we did not go on lockdown,” he said.
Attempts to identify and avoid areas like shopping centres, taxi ranks or any other potential places where larger groupings of people congregate will not in itself help people outrun the pandemic, Moshabela indicated.
“The narrative to tell people to avoid certain places [be it service providers or locations] will stigmatise places, the people who work or live there and the services they provide. It’s not about the places but the way people engage with spaces where there are other people. As much as possible we need to stay home and when we are out we need to follow the measures.
“You can avoid this particular shop today, but the one you go to gets an outbreak. You can even pass on the virus at home. People must change their ways of life, not stigmatise places,” he said.
Moshabela said it was normal for businesspeople to call for an easing of lockdown regulations due to loss of income, but it was necessary to protect lives.
“When you flatten the curve, you lower the peak, which means it happens over a longer period. There’s a big difference when the infection is taking place over three months and nine months.
“When you delay and extend the period of the pandemic, the health system capacity which is usually below the peak can rise and be above the peak. If you stretch out the curve, this ultimately allows the health system to cope,” he said.
“An extended lockdown poses a threat to people who own businesses, but this is a matter of saving lives.”