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Ubuntu in a time of a pandemic

Aug 26, 2020 | Flavor Of The Month, The Juice

Thebemed Wellness Cafe’

The choices you make can impact us all

The Covid-19 threat is not going away fast – for the foreseeable future coping with it in our daily lives will become the new normal. So we must develop a new attitude to each other and cultivate appropriate prevention habits. Such an attitude will be a combination of responsible citizenship, and neighbourly love. Simply put, it’s about practicing African ‘ubuntu’.

Reuter’s reports that With 596,000 Covid-19 infections in South Africa, the death toll of just over 12,400 might appear to be relatively low (20th August 2020).

As a result with lockdown measures eased, it could still be fatal, especially to the vulnerable, if we were tempted to relax our vigilance, become infected, and so unknowingly infect others.

The Department of Health has encouraged South Africans not to panic, assuring that for most who become infected the symptoms are likely to be mild. We too have urged maintaining an up-beat attitude to keep the immune system boosted. Statistics show that only 6% of those infected do require hospitalisation. Nevertheless, in order to contain the spread of infection and so avoid medical resources becoming overwhelmed, certain government control measures stay in place. Some of these, like the requirement to wear masks in public and the continued restriction of public events, may be considered controversial.

Responsible citizenship normally complies willingly with national law. But we know that for certain countries there has been vigorous resistance to Covid-19 control measures. We also know that some of those countries have suffered the highest mortalities, especially where unclear government messaging has caused confusion. By contrast we previously showed that those countries with clear messaging, rapid responses, and compassionate approach, performed best. In this Woman’s month we identified six female national leaders who excelled in such loving leadership.

With the challenging socio-economic conditions of the self-employed, poor, and the unemployed in South Africa, there is a strong desire to get back to normal life. We might become increasingly reluctant to observe regulations, arguing the threat is not that dangerous. As a result responsible citizenship might fly out of the window.

But this ‘low threat’ might not be the full story! The South African Medical Research Council reported that between 6 May and 14 July 2020 over 17,000 excess deaths of natural causes were recorded when compared with the similar period in 2019. This is over and above the 12,000+ identified mortalities. Taking into account the vulnerability of those with comorbidities and the elderly, as we showed previously, it is significant that for people between the ages of 1 and 59, the excess number of deaths during this period approached 6,000, whereas for people 60 and older it was over 11,000.  We know for certain that the elderly are the most vulnerable to Covid-19.

Business Tech explains that the figures might therefore tell a rather different and sobering story. If a significant number of those deaths were due to the virus the real death toll might be over 20,000. See: Mkhize on South Africa’s 17,000 ‘excess’ deaths.

So what difference is there between ‘responsible citizenship’ and ‘neighbourly love’ when responding to the crisis? Prof Salim Karim – head researcher at the SA Medical Research Council – says it’s ‘Ubuntu’. This simply means that we become deeply responsible for each other.Read his full article here.

This means that there is an opportunity for South Africans, as we apply self-discipline, to become responsible citizens and to rediscover and practice the neighbourly love of Ubuntu.

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