Lockdown 1, beaches 0

A sunset with a section of stripy clouds

Well, that’s the summer season on the beach down the plughole. One address from the president and lockdown level 1 has become a lot less palatable – and again it seems the repercussions have not been considered in their full extent. Together we will watch this new bit of news unfold.

My final note this time comes in the form of a second paragraph. This is because the first provides a preview to those who see this post on social media and the last seems too near the bottom to explain my extended absence. I’m currently laying the foundations for 2021, working in an uncertain world that has an uncertain future. This has pushed my entertainments and distractions off the page while I focus on what will be, I hope, a more stable and predictable year. If you want to help, please contact me.

In this latest update to the lockdown regulations, which just days ago saw the curfew changed from midnight to 22:00, all beaches in the Eastern Cape are closed until January 4. Oh there’s more regulations, like further restrictions on the numbers of people allowed to gather indoors and out, restrictions on alcohol sales, and the like. The usual stuff.

The problem is the beaches. Sure, it doesn’t sound like a big deal – unless you live at the coast. The annual invasion of “Vaalies” (basically all out-of-town visitors) is a big deal economically – and they come for the beaches. No beaches affects every aspect of local tourism. Right from the ice cream, hat and sunglass sellers and stallholders on the beachfront to the most expensive hotels and private accommodations, that entire section of the economy revolves around visitors.

The lifelines for smaller towns was cut off at the end of March this year, eased regulations have gradually given hope that the year could be rescued. The tourniquet now applied was not near the wound to stem the bloodflow but rather wrapped around the neck, forming a noose. We are saving the head by killing the body.

When lockdown started at the end of March, the effects were dramatic. You can read about those here and here. I really don’t need to get into that information when you can simply read what has already been written. Suffice it to say, it is very scary. The fallout of this new decision will be grim.

When President Ramaphosa faced the lights and cameras this evening the stress was obvious. He is both tired and extremely stressed, it would appear. That isn’t really surprising when you’re the leader of a country that has no money, is heavily indebted, is facing an unemployment tsunami, where everyone is screaming about saving the economy, infections are rising and the vaccine is both far in the future and not nearly sufficient to cover the population. An untenable situation to be sure.

I recently had a conversation with a medical professional who raised the point that the 2018 flu killed far more people than Covid has. In the US the hospitalisation rate for the 2018 flu was 22.7 for every 100,000 people. For Covid the hospitalisation rate is 278.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 US citizens for the week ending 5 December. The difference is dramatic.

The current projection is that the global death rate will be 0.6%. Currently SA has had 866,127 recorded infections. Of these, 762,746 have recovered, there are 79,930 active cases and 23,451 deaths by 14 December. That puts the South African death rate at … 2.7%?

This is a serious problem, because we don’t have the medical facilities to support that kind of demand for medical care. This is where the enthusiasm for lockdowns come in, to slow the spread of the virus in order to reduce pressure on the medical system.

We may not like it, we may not agree with it and we may not enjoy it, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that this is an opportunistic virus – and we keep giving it more opportunities. Until that changes, nothing is going to improve in terms of our desire for things to be simple, easy and normal again. Clearly this is going to be a difficult summer, but it will also set the tone for 2021 – with our help.

For the locals, what is a beach ban? Does this mean no sitting on the beach, no walking on the beach, no swimming, no sitting in the parking lot, no walking on the paths near the beach? No surfing, no boating, no paddle skies, no windsurfers, no diving? Does it mean no crowd activities or no singular pursuits – no fishing? What of the picnic sites near the beach, the camping sites, what of the beach access at the camping sites? A million questions and no answers, it is all very vague.

Author: Morné Condon

Automotive journalist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, following new models, old cars, car clubs and motorsport. My interests are not restricted to the automotive environment, although this is where I am mostly to be found.

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