Barely four weeks ago, most thought South Africa had full control of the Covid-19 pandemic, with daily infections at fewer than 2 000 in the past three months. But the virus has again reared its ugly head and is threatening to destroy even the remaining days of a miserable year.
This week saw the figures double, reminding us that the battle against the virus is still being waged and could undo our initial success.
This prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to address the nation and caution citizens not to let their guard down as the festive season approaches.
He said: “There’s now clear evidence of a resurgence of infections in parts of our country, which – if not confronted decisively and directly – could lead to great suffering and death. We must change our behaviour now to prevent this resurgence of the virus and manage the outbreaks.”
Ramaphosa spoke after a spike in daily cases and consequent hospitalisations had been observed around the country, particularly in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
It is evident that many citizens have become complacent and are no longer as vigilant as they were during the first few months of the outbreak.
Ever more people are venturing out of their homes, attending weddings and funerals, frequenting shopping malls or using public transport without wearing masks, sanitising their hands or social distancing.
Many are holding parties at home and in public spaces – potential superspreader events.
There’s a sense of lockdown fatigue, as people long to enjoy the festive season without restraint. But this is a deadly mistake, as evidenced by fresh waves of infection in the US and Europe, which are just past their summer seasons.
The US recorded a shocking 200 000 infections in one day this week, while Italy registered a record number of deaths in a single day.
This will be a festive season like no other.
We must continue to make sacrifices, forgo travelling to holiday destinations and avoid big family gatherings to limit the spread of the virus, because it will only be defeated by our efforts as individuals.
Conscious of the devastation which the hard lockdown had on the economy, Ramaphosa spared us a return to those tough days.
But if South Africans continue to behave irresponsibly, government may have no other option than to start shutting down again.