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Covid-19: The world finds itself... Between a rock and a hard place

Apr 8, 2020


The world finds itself …

between a rock and a hard place.

by Gerhard Papenfus


This article must not in any way be misconstrued as criticism toward Government’s actions aimed at containing the Coronavirus. The author hereof has publicly supported Government’s actions in this regard. The aim is rather to encourage debate on the issue.


A catch-22 situation is a dilemma from which there is no escape because of inherently competing conditions, a situation in which there is no positive solution or resolution possible, due to the way in which the factors of the solution relate to each other.

Covid-19 has plummeted the world squarely into a catch-22 predicament. Time will tell whether we have responded appropriately to this new challenge which is manifesting on the health-, political- and socio-economic front.

Every year, an estimated 10 million people fall ill from Tuberculosis – where the spread from one person to another happens in exactly the same manner as in the case of Covid-19 – and an estimated 1.5 million sufferers die of TB, and yet no extraordinary measures, other than the normal health protocols, are introduced.

It’s too soon to say for sure, but a new study by scientists at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) could indicate a major score for SA in the fight against Covid-19.

The study, which is completed but not yet published, suggests that countries with a long-standing and successful BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccination programme — which SA has had since 1973 — are faring far better against the virus than those which don’t.

Extracts from: Can SA’s decades-old vaccine regime work in our favour against Covid-19? published by Times Live on 3 April 2020, written by Tanya Farber


 New York Times: Can old vaccine cure new virus?
• Biznews: interview with Dr. Noluthando Nematswerani, the head of the Discovery Health Centre for Clinical Excellence.
• Science Alert: Australia trialing TB vaccine.
• Fortune: Countries that mandate TB vaccine are seeing fewer coronavirus deaths.
• India Times: Indian scientists hopeful but cautious.

Annually, 1.35 million people (3 700 per day) die in road accidents, and yet the use of cars, taxi’s and busses are not banned.

In the meantime, economies are decimated, some will recover slowly to pre-Covid 19 levels and others may recover only partially or not at all. This will plunge millions of people who are already in poverty into destitution, which will cause many more deaths, because of famine and malnutrition. This will be accompanied by increased social instability, which, on its own, will claim many lives.

However, we dare not be naïve in this scenario. Once China had established the lockdown scenario (albeit only in one province), the whole world was forced, also because of public opinion, into the same modus operandi. It would have been political suicide for any politician, within the reigning narrative, to respond in any other manner.

In the aftermath of this pandemic, governments and societies globally will have to do honest introspection and assessment of our responses in crises, not only of this nature, but many others – of the sort that we do not even conceive now. If the next ‘Coronavirus’ arrives, will we ‘lockdown’ the world again? Civil society will have to act more responsibly and governments will have to brace themselves to make proper and informed decisions in a world where the media, as well as social media, is capable of driving the narrative.








We are all in this together.

Privileged and challenged to be South African.


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