/ 9 January 2021

Editorial: 2021 — No choice but be strong

Editorial Mg
(Mail & Guardian)

Compliments of the season. Happy New Year. These greetings ring hollow to most of us now. There are too many things that feel wrong.

The border with Zimbabwe is flooded with desperate people wanting to cross back into South Africa.

The pandemic’s second surge has hit our shores with a ferocity that we did not expect. The number of positive cases is climbing exponentially. About 20 000 people are testing positive every day. And because of the new variant, we are seeing a higher death rate. 

Hospitals are overwhelmed.

The army has been deployed to patrol the Garden Route as the virus takes its toll on law enforcers.

And yet, many are not adhering to basic health protocols — wear a mask, sanitise and physically distance. Worse still, conspiracy theories about the origin and political aims of the virus and the vaccine are still running rampant.

January 1 marked a year since Covid-19 exploded into every facet of our lives.

Neighbouring Zimbabwe and Botswana are under national lockdown in a desperate attempt to stem surging cases. In England, new restrictions were announced as the country entered a tier 5 shutdown expected to last into March. Scotland is shut down. Ireland has banned English travellers. Singapore has banned South African travellers to avoid the new Covid-19 variant ­— first detected in England and here — taking hold. China has just reported its highest number of new cases.

More than 87-million people have been infected around the world; the death toll has passed 1.88-million.

In the United States, which accounts for almost 20% of global infections, democracy is under attack by rabid right-wing supporters of loser President Don.

Then, of course, the ANC’s January 8 party fans have little to celebrate with a ban on alcohol sales, a curfew, limited attendance and a debilitating factional war within its ranks.

As for economic prospects, we can’t ignore the World Bank’s projections that the global economy is expected to expand by 4% in 2021 after shrinking 4.3% in 2020. The South African economy is projected to recover by 3.3%, but without an end in sight to this ravaging pandemic, these are optimistic at best.

The Covid-19 pandemic eroded per capita income, resulting in millions more South Africans being pushed into extreme poverty. There are expectations of further declines.

As we wait in hope for a vaccine, there is no escaping the downward spiral. Pharmaceutical companies are yet to register their vaccines with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, boding ill for its delivery to the public.

In all this we must stand strong; protect each other and have faith in our ability to rise from disaster. If we don’t, the consequences are too dire to contemplate.