Yesterday, an article started doing the rounds on WhatsApp and social media, written by Alan Knott-Craig Jr.
You may not recognise that name (you can read Alan’s bio here, which will save you commenting ‘who?’), but the headline of the BizNews article, ‘Could SA by some miracle dodge worst of COVID-19 curse?’, was an attention-grabber.
Essentially, Knott-Craig argues that because of South Africa’s widespread and ongoing battle against tuberculosis, many of us may be ‘safe’ from the coronavirus.
Here’s some of his reasoning:
It may just turn out that most South Africans are safe because it’s mandatory to have a Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccination when they are born to prevent life-threatening TB later on.
“We found that countries without universal policies of BCG vaccination, such as Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States, have been more severely affected compared to countries with universal and long-standing BCG policies,” noted the researchers led by Gonzalo Otazu, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at NYIT.
In an effort to illustrate this, Knott-Craig turned to the statistics that compare Spain and Portugal.
Except he turned to some woefully inaccurate statistics, and was soon called out on that, forcing BizNews to issue a correction that the number of Spanish deaths from COVID-19 was not 34 219, as first stated, with that number corrected to 11,947
(Worldometer has the number of deaths in Spain from COVID-19 at 14 045 at the time of writing.)
Back to Knott-Craig, and his belief that “thanks to South Africa’s mandatory BCG vaccination policy, we may just be less affected than many countries in the world”.
He states that ending the lockdown would benefit South Africa in seven ways:
Millions of jobs will be saved. Millions of families will be rescued from economic hardship.
Universal BCG vaccination gives our country a comparative advantage over countries that don’t, i.e.: all developed countries, and all developing countries that don’t have the systems and/or economic means to enforce mandatory vaccinations.
Cyril Ramaphosa can use the economic crisis as leverage to implement the much-needed structural economic reforms our country needs, without the ANC in-fighting that has previously hamstrung his efforts.
People have opened their eyes to the power of online education. No need to have the world’s best math teacher living in Butterworth. No need to print and deliver millions of textbooks. No matter where you live, you can have a world-class education (assuming you have affordable broadband).
Less flying and driving. Even the most hide-bound of executives have now been forced to telecommute. Turns out it ain’t so hard. Good for traffic. Good for the climate.
It means Eskom’s grid can take a breather whilst essential maintenance is carried out and IPP’s prepare for selling directly to customers, reducing our reliance on Eskom, ultimately creating a stronger and more resilient power grid.
It means the Moody and Fitch downgrades are pretty meaningless. Everyone is being downgraded.
Yes, sure, that would all be lovely.
As many have pointed out, there are quite a few ‘ifs’ involved in this scenario, and many of those are downright dangerous.
Here’s how the article concludes:
If the positive scenario pans out, South Africa will be the equivalent of a golfer hitting a duck hook into the water, ricocheting off a submerged rock, bouncing back to the green, and the ball coming to a rest three feet from the pin.
We may just be pretty damn lucky.
The whole world is in it together, but, by some miracle, SA might be the best place to be in it.
‘If’, ‘may’, ‘might’.
Look, we are all desperate for some good news in the midst of a global pandemic that has claimed more than 80 000 lives, which is perhaps why this article was shared so widely, so quickly.
Most of the articles that talk about what happens after lockdown are full of doom and gloom, and uncertainty across the board.
Because of this, understandably, we latch onto that which offers us hope, and share it with others thinking it will do the same.
In times like these, though, false hope is dangerous, and false hope that could lead to actions that place people in harm’s way even more so.
On the BizNews Facebook post to the article, there are some interesting comments.
Some use stats:
Some are worried that this could lead to a loss of life down the line:
And others are, shall we say, more emotive:
The article itself has some stinging criticism in the comments section:
To finish, perhaps the most stinging rebuke via Twitter:
Look, you’re free to make of Alan’s article what you will – read it in full here if you haven’t yet.
When it comes to taking advice about the best course going forward, I’m more inclined to believe what comes from the likes of our Minister of Health, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, and the experts who specialise in matters of health.
Speak to them, and you may just hear that returning to life as usual before this pandemic is under control will have far fewer positive effects on South Africa than some would have us believe.
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