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Your choice is not just about you. It is about all of us.

Some hospitals, especially in the Western Cape, are already under significant pressure. The announcement of the opening of casinos and restaurants does not mean we can do what we want. The sum of the actions of all of us will exacerbate that problem. Your choice is not just about you. It is about care for all writes Margaret Blackie.

The latest shift in lockdown regulations includes opening of casinos, restaurants and hair dressing salons. There is only one response to this – just because you can doesn’t mean it is safe.

Just because you can doesn’t mean it is safe.

Understand this: the risk of transmission increases with both proximity and time. The virus is borne by water droplets that we breathe out. Sitting in a restaurant, sharing a meal, means that most people will not be wearing masks. A typical shared meal may last around an hour. This means that if just one person in the restaurant is infected it is probable that more than one other person will be infected in the course of the meal. The time spent in the restaurant means that some of the droplets may circulate longer distances. And the time also means that the amount of virus laden droplets you inhale may well be sufficient to tip over the threshold to infection.

As you begin to engage more in the world, you cannot rely on businesses to protect you. Your health and safety is in your own hands.

Wearing a mask which is regularly washed and sanitized, and good hand hygiene remain absolutely crucial.

Without doubt though, the fewer people you interact with, and the shorter time you spend with any of them, the better for everyone. If we all keep strict social distancing then, we will reduce the rate of transmission. But this is a group project. We are all in this together.

It is hard to get our heads around this. We are so used to doing just what we want to do. We have to understand that every time I choose to interact with people whether shopping or socializing, I am increasing the probability of transmission.

In the Western Cape hospitals are already under significant pressure. The sum of the actions of all of us will exacerbate that problem. Your choice is not just about you. It is about care for all.    

The news of dexamethasone does give some relief. According to the World Health Organisation the use of drug reduces mortality for those on ventilators by about 20% and for those on oxygen by about 33%. In other words, it helps, a bit, but it isn’t a ‘cure’.

Don’t focus on what your neighbour is doing. Deciding to start engaging normally with the world because your neighbour seems to be doing that escalates the problem. You have a choice about how much and under what circumstances you will interact with others.

Be discerning and choose the path of lower risk when possible.

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.


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Margaret Blackie
Dr Margaret Blackie is a senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science at Stellenbosch University. She was the recipient in 2020 of the Chemical Education Medal of the South African Chemical Institute. She is also a spiritual director and author of two books: ‘Rooted in Love’ and ‘The Grace of Forgiveness’.

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