The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world…
There is worldwide concern, severe travel bans, lock-downs, states of emergency, cancelled events, panic buying, stock exchanges in decline, fears of a major economic depression, and more. The human and economic impacts are huge, and growing. The planet is in uncharted territory.
It seems that most of us will be exposed to the virus at some point, and many of us will get infected (because this is a brand-new virus nobody has any immunity for it). This scenario will change when herd immunity develops – herd immunity develops through mass infection (usually 60% or more of a population) or through vaccination.
It remains true that most healthy adults (and nearly all children, mercifully) who become infected go on to develop mild-to-moderate flu-like symptoms, from which they make a full recovery. The fatality rate is not clear (this is a new pandemic and research is very much still underway) but estimates range from less than 1% to as much as 6%, with 1-3% perhaps the best estimate at this time. The majority of fatalities do occur in the elderly and the unwell although nobody has zero risk (young and otherwise-well people have died).
The most important early symptoms are cough and fever. The incubation period (time from exposure to illness) is typically 4-6 days but can be as much as 14 days. Infection can be spread during this incubation period.
There is an unprecedented international effort to find effective treatments and vaccines, with researchers collaborating as never before and philanthropists contributing huge funding. Standard antibiotics do not work (just like they do not work for any virus).
The best precautions appear to be regular hand washing and social distancing. Face masks are being more widely recommended now and they do appear to offer some protection. When using a face-mask it is critically important to use it correctly – put it over nose and mouth, never touch the mask once it is on, learn how to take it off using only the elastics or straps, dispose of or wash it immediately after use.
In order to avoid overwhelming healthcare services, and to reduce spread, most experts advise those with mild symptoms to self-isolate at home, only seeking hospital care if they become more ill (high fever, shortness of breath, distress, etc.). Those in doubt should call the national helpline or their own doctors.
The South African national helpline number is 0800 029 999.
The nature of this pandemic is such that the situation changes rapidly and so does the best advice. Panic is not helpful so we all need to stay informed by using reliable sources. To that end here are some quality online resources that we suggest you use:
World Health Organisation (WHO)
SA department of health
Wikipedia on coronavirus in SA
SA NICD (communicable diseases)
BMJ (research & technical info)
In addition we have some locally-produced materials that may be helpful (please consider printing and sharing these):
Hand washing guidelines
This is world-changing and generation-defining challenge. If we all act with good sense, with courage and with resilience, we will get through this. Perhaps not easily, almost certainly not without loss and pain, but we will get through it. We wish all our readers well.