What are we doing to the children of South Africa under the guise of COVID-19 lockdown?
In response to rising numbers of cases of COVID-19, which had been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the President of South Africa (SA) imposed a nationwide lockdown on 23 March 2020, effective on 27 March 2020. While some other countries seemed to panic, flounder and in some cases even turn their backs on the rising threat of COVID-19, for SA this was almost a Dunkirk moment. The nation showed an extraordinary degree of unity as the President implemented severe measures that have proved effective at ‘flattening the curve’.
What should be of major concern to South Africans, however, is that the background care of children has been tremendously compromised by lockdown. We the undersigned are extremely perturbed at the aggressive nature of some of the regulations and how they are being implemented. Some of these regulations directly affect children’s access to healthcare and education and maternal support for hospitalised children. The consequences of decisions made during the lockdown by politicians, healthcare workers and parents are giving rise to an increasing sense of disquiet.
Nearly half of the COVID-19 positive individuals have now recovered, and the majority of those infected have had a mild or asymptomatic illness. Between 5 March and 19 May, 16 433 South Africans became infected and 286 died (mortality rate 1.74%). But in anticipation of the reopening of schools, the South African Democratic Teachers Union stated that ‘corpses can neither be taught nor can they teach’, associating the opening of schools directly with COVID-19 and death. However, politicians have reassured us that their policies will be guided by science, and on those grounds alone our argument requires a dispassionate stance. We therefore carefully set out our concerns and avoid the speculation that is rife at this time.
Our first concern is the belief among South Africans, including the public, parents and healthcare workers, that SARS-CoV-2 infection is synonymous with severe disease and even death.