South Africa enters panic mode over COVID-19

Despite wide spread calls from several leaders in the country including by President  Cyril Ramaphosa for South Africans not to panic due to the deadly Coronavirus, the country went into a worrisome panic mode with the citizenry literally running in all directions in preparation for the worst from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Millions of shoppers crowded shopping malls and supermarkets buying essentials in preparation for coming months as anxiety spread across the country and the world in general. Social media did not help much and played a big role in spreading wide ranging concern among different populations across the globe.
People the world over have expressed great worry that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had classified Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a global pandemic. For any outbreak to be classified as a pandemic, it means there is big trouble. The number of cases in South Africa, mainly from people who had travelled to other areas in Asia, Europe and the Americas is exponentially increasing, demonstrating that we have a serious problem. This, in any language is worrisome.
South Africa can take solace from the fact that by the time of going to press last night, there still had been no reports that any South African had died from the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic although the number of people infected with the virus had risen to 116 indicating that we might just come out of this situation alive and unscathed with nobody having been killed by the Coronavirus.
While we acknowledge that the current situation has made it difficult for the entire population to live as normal, it is obviously no longer business as usual and we must act like people facing a pandemic and not be complacent. With the numbers of infected people sky-rocketing every day, it is also understandable that panic attack would be unavoidable. Hence we appreciate the drastic action taken by President Ramaphosa against the virus although some argued that he had acted belatedly.
As suggested by SANAC Civil Society Forum over the weekend, although we call on South Africans to stay calm, we are also .worried about the impact COVID-19 on People Living with HIV and those with TB, especially those who are not on treatment. While we have over 4,9 million people on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART), we still have another 2 million not on treatment. We are also dealing with those defaulting on ART. Although we don’t know the interaction between the HIVirus and the Coronavirus, we have every reason to be scared about the results and impact of the interaction between these 2 viruses will have on those who are HIV positive.
We were also encouraged that government’s drastic actions against the spreading of the virus included the closure of early learning centers, schools and institutions of higher learning. All mass events were cancelled with immediate effect including but not limited to the Human Rights Day on 21 March 2020, World TB Day on 24 March 2020.
All major religious, sporting, arts and large scale events planned were cancelled with immediate effect and flights from all countries with Coronavirus were cancelled.
We remain worried though that our healthcare system as diagnosed during the 2018 Presidential Health Compact indicated that we have huge challenges.
“Efforts are underway to fix the healthcare system, but we are not there yet and we therefore cannot afford a calamity that will crush the healthcare system from large number of positive cases of Coronavirus.
“South Africa must measure the opportunity cost of shutdown and in some instances restrictions of economic and social platforms as opposed to doing nothing or hoping that washing of hands is the only solution. Some people are not able afford to wash hands as they do not have clean running water just to drink and washing hands without water is asking for the impossible. Yes, those who have access to clean water to drink and wash their hands should, but the reality is that some South Africans do not enjoy this option. We are calling for a radical shift to “social distance” as the only possible measures to assist us to avoid large scale infections. Even with the social distance measures, poverty and inequality will triumph as we still have people living in squalor and conditions that will make a mockery of creating social distance. However it is better to do something in small measure than to do nothing at all.
“We have entered an era of invisible war, and how we fight will determine if we will win this war. We are the soldiers that you can count on, and we speak on behalf of business and government that none of us would like to see South Africa on her knees because we chose not to act”, remarked SANAC’s  chairperson, Steve Letsike.
We repeat, South Africa must not go into a panic attack. We must remain calm to avoid stressful situations. We must concentrate on the challenges at hand to ensure that we understand better which will help us avoid unnecessary accidents. We must all come out of this one alive and well.