Adriaan Basson: Ngiyabonga South Africa, well done for locking down!

Empty Johannesburg streets. (Pieter du Toit, News24)
Empty Johannesburg streets. (Pieter du Toit, News24)

The one positive aspect of this, even if some of the reading is quite depressing, is that it focuses the mind that we will get through this. There will be life on the other side of Covid-19, writes Adriaan Basson. 

Despite the umpteenth fake news voice note, a few delinquent joggers in Pretoria and Cape Town and some panicked buyers around the country, by far the majority of South Africans have reacted resolutely to the 21-day coronavirus lockdown.  

South Africans have heeded President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to shut down the streets in a desperate attempt to shut down the virus that is destroying the world.  

It was never going to be easy being locked up in your own residence during a time of great global crisis. But it remains the only way to contain the virus and we simply have to push through.  

Take a bow! 

As the global number of infections and deaths continue to rise, the South African healthcare system is bracing itself for the next few weeks, when we are expected to reach our "surge" phase. 

We have surprisingly few deaths so far - two Covid-19 deaths were recorded by Monday morning.

This doesn't mean much. We have surpassed the 1 200 infections mark with limited testing having been done in informal settlements and townships.  

On Sunday, the Western Cape reported its first detected infection in the highly populated Khayelitsha.  

Our infection figure could shoot up any day and it is still unknown how the immunity systems of people living with HIV and TB would react to Covid-19. 

Added to that the shortage of testing materials and our looming shortage of ventilators and we could be in for a perfect storm.  

The best we can do for now is to lock down and avoid people as far as possible.

Keep as many people as possible out of the system. Only leave your house for real emergencies and if you visit the shop, buy enough food for a few days. 

If you are over 65-years old or have a history of respiratory illness, you should not be leaving your house at all. Order your groceries online if you can or ask a neighbour or friend to do your shopping for you. 

What were regarded as relatively simple decisions a few weeks ago can save lives today.

Continue to be responsible and protect yourself and your family.  

Over the past few days, I have read interesting pieces about life after the coronavirus.

The one positive aspect of this, even if some of the reading is quite depressing, is that it focuses the mind that we will get through this. There will be life on the other side of Covid-19.  

What it will look like is the big unknown.  

Locally, South Africa’s economy is being decimated with every passing day.

We are now comfortably talking about a contraction and thousands, if not millions of people, will lose their jobs.  

People will lose their homes, cars and go hungry.  

If the Minister of Finance says he is shaking in his boots and the CEO of Edcon admits that he will no longer be paying his suppliers, you know that we are in serious trouble.  

Moody’s downgrade of South Africa's credit rating was rubbing salt into a raw wound, but not unexpected. The rest of the world is losing confidence in us and we have only ourselves to blame.  

It has taken way too long to sort out Eskom's troubles (the power utility must use the lockdown period to its fullest to perform critical maintenance that was neglected during the boom years) and unsolved policy matters like expropriation without compensation remain a hindrance for investors.  

Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni will have to take some hard decisions if they want to turn things around.

The ANC will have to ask itself whether it could continue to support any policy that risks further job losses or capital flight. 

Mboweni has firmly opened the discussion about seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or the New Development Bank.

This will require major undertakings from the government, like cutting the public wage bill and closing state-owned enterprises.  

But in a post-coronavirus world we may no longer have the luxury of options.  

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24

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