“They contracted it on visit to beautiful Milan, but it originally started in a place called Wuhan; I’m talking about Corona, the novel virus Corona.”
It happened. COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-COV-2, made it to South African shores. And while I’m quite proud of my little adaptation of the opening line to Lola by The Kinks, the jokes are all stale now. I’m also tired of the panic spreading throughout our country which has resulted in hoax infections by some attention-seeking citizens.
Look, COVID-19 is a seriously infectious disease that we haven’t got a full handle on yet and something that should be taken very seriously. Wash your hands thoroughly and avoid touching your face. It’s basic hygiene which is highly effective because it cuts off the entry points for the virus.
Coronaviruses – most of the colds you catch are also coronaviruses – can survive exposure to the atmosphere for about 4 days, but crucially can’t enter or bodies through the skin. The groups most at risk are the elderly, the young children and all people with compromised immune systems or pre-existing respiratory illnesses. Like asthma sufferers, for instance. Which puts me and my children at high risk.
But we can’t live our lives in fear. I kicked off 2020 by discovering that I’m suddenly allergic to beestings. There’s a hive right outside our bathroom window, buried deep in our neighbour’s hedge. Did I burn down the hedge after coming home from the hospital? No. Why? Because bees are more important to the environment and wearing shoes inside the house is a small precaution to take.
Coronavirus outbreaks will continue to happen as humans transition to being more careful with nature. We can’t stop the next superflu, but we can get annual vaccinations to give our bodies a heads up. It’s the little things we do that have the most impact. Madagascar, for instance, has seasonal bubonic plague and no-one bat’s an eyelid.
When I was at primary school I’d get freaked out if a fly landed on my sandwich because we were told that TB could be spread by flies. Yes, the Western Cape is a tuberculosis hot spot, but we treat it like the common cold because we’ve developed treatments for it. Our ports of entry are monitored by thermal cameras because we live on the tip of a continent that has some insane diseases.
COVID-19 has come to South Africa, but we will endure it. Our healthcare systems are robust enough to contain the outbreak and we actually have bigger problems that we deal with every day. Wash your hands, go to the doctor if you fell sick and don’t fear this virus.