please note: events of the past weeks of December have shown the speculation surrounding the so-called ‘seasonal thesis’ below to be completely wrong, instead we have a witnessed another surge as the result the rise of a more infectious lineage of the virus, the article is preserved here to serve as a record of this open speculation.
TWO WEEKS ago Boris Johnson announced a second nation-wide lockdown for the UK. This apparently after data showing projected infection increases, outstripping the capacity of the NHI — there is a broad variance shown by the conflicting mathematical models, which do not take into account exposure to UV radiation.
As the Northern economies enter Winter, the ‘second wave is upon us’. However the same cannot be inferred by local data. So far as the South is concerned, summertime is proving that when it comes to Covid-19 every indication points to the pandemic being seasonal, and that a diverging UV profile will lesson the impact in the South.
The announcement of a vaccine with a 90% effectiveness has boosted hopes for an end to the pandemic. With Nelson Mandela Bay metropole the sole outlier, South Africa has been spared the worst ravages of the ‘second outbreak’. The nation has an extraordinary high recovery rate and most early projections have proven wrong, witness the controversy over the modelling.
‘In the South African context, there is close to zero value in going back to a hard lockdown as it is not going to achieve anything different in controlling the epidemic’ is the view of Professor Shabir Madhi from the school of pathology at the University of the Witwatersrand. This stands in contrast to Dr Zweli Mkhize’s insistence that his mathematical models are correct.
What is not being said by either sides, (and speaking as an environmentalist) is that there are very different environmental factors at play in Africa. Not only do we have a different seasonal procession, with the South experiencing Summer when North experiences Winter, but there are vastly different weather patterns, all of which impacts on the amount of sunshine and consequently UV radiation experienced by the average individual.
South Africa’s UV burn index is amongst the highest in the world. Bare in the mind that the coronovirus is a derivative of the common cold, and operates much in the same way that the flu does, save for the fact that coronoviruses tend to break out in clusters unlike the flu which comes in waves. Direct normal radiation for Upington for example, is nearly 1000 w/m2, and vastly different from our coastline.
The whole notion of a ‘second wave’ for the entire world, is potentially a flawed assumption made by the World Health Organisation which has tended to operate as if the earth were flat in the process dishing out advice that is no better than that given by socialist bureaucrats during the Soviet Union.
The mandarins and technocrats in Geneva simply rolled out policies for the entire world this year, a one-size-fits-all determination that treats every economy as if we are all living in Alaska, and which deserves to be tested and scrutinised by local and regional scientific councils.
The only ones benefiting from this extraordinary overreach, are the large pharmaceutical companies which stand to make a mint out of the supply of PPE and the much-vaunted vaccine. A vaccine which may take anywhere up to 5 -7 years to dispense. Nevetheless questioning Covid stats, may incur professional liability and institutional sanctions much in the same way that questioning received doctrine on the HIV epidemic has become a shibboleth of notable proportion.
Now more than ever, is the time to host a national symposium on what is known about the virus within the local context, what still needs to be understood and to derive policies based upon evidence-based science and empirical research rather than policy decisions made externally and consequently adopted by our government without any forethought as to the consequences.
Unfortunately as the HIV crisis has shown, the likelihood of the South African government taking a lead where science is concerned is extremely slim. Read my piece on Skepticism during the Mbeki era.