government should implement an effective health plan in rural and township communities during the 21 day curfew

OPINION:

As we get into the 21 days lockdown from Thursday 26 March 2020 to 16 April 2020, the South African Government has a chance to correct the mistake of not taking decisive action when the first COVID 19 case was detected in the country.

At the time of publishing, the number of infected cases was at 709 from 38 cases on 15 March 2020.

The 21-day curfew comes after the government had tried to implement preventive measures that proved to fail as the number of infections kept on increasing at an alarming rate.

The strategy to limit crowds and the decision to have taverns operating until 6:00 PM on weekdays and Saturdays and 13:00 on Sundays proved to be a failure as people continued to gather in large crowds during these times leading to an increase in infections.

For instance, in some townships, tavern owners pretended to have closed while the patrons were locked inside and it was business as usual, proving that people will always make a plan for a drink and for some good time no matter the risk.

Taxi ranks, malls, churches and supermarkets are other places that are difficult to control crowds and the delay in taking drastic action to control crowding at these areas and the increase in infections only goes to show that government was caught napping and failed to get their collective heads around this one.

While the government was telling us to be calm, to wash our hands, avoid touching our faces, eyes or to cover our noses and mouths, the virus continued to spread and we can only conclude that the government did not fully comprehend the dangers facing he nation.

To make matters worse, the line-up of Ministers with confusing messages is not helping the situation much. Instead of being calm, citizens are alarmed at the rate of increasing infections and are on panic mode, exactly the opposite of what governed has been pleading with them not to do.

The stockpiling can only tell us that people have lost trust in government because of the failure to act decisively when the first case of Corona was reported. Citizens are fatigued by the lining up of Ministers who have taken the offensive in their communications stance more than working with communities for a common purpose. Citizens are simply confused and do not believe that government is capable of dealing with this catastrophe.

We can welcome and embrace the 21-day curfew, even though it came a little too late. This is after we have allowed planes from high-risk countries to land at our airports which means we do not have an idea of how many infected people are in our country and at what rate is the virus spreading.

We can only hold our breath and hope that after going through a distressing 21-day curfew, it will be worth our while. We trust in President Ramaphosa to be surrounded by think tanks that can help him to navigate us out of this one. We have heard the messages, it is now time to act and correct the failure to act with speed when the virus landed on our shores…history has taught us that law and order do not effectively suppress South Africans from doing what they want to do. So people will still find ways to mingle during this curfew.

The government had said they will implement a health plan during the 21-day curfew, it might be worth exploring that while we are on the national lockdown, instead of only bombarding communities with information, the government should consider deploying mobile testing centres and equipment to communities to arrest the virus where it might be incubating in poor communities.

For God help us all, if the virus can go undetected at rural poor communities, only to raise its head again after the 21 days.