Friday, June 12 marked 100 days since South Africans were informed that a KwaZulu-Natal man had been the country’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus presence.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, a world-renowned HIV scientist and infectious diseases epidemiologist, who chairs the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 believes the next 100 days will be crucial in reducing the impact of the pandemic on the country.
He said South Africans would have to move from a state of anxiety, which was prevalent for the first 100 days, to a state of agency where they would have to prevent themselves and others from being at risk.
“My colleagues in behavioural science call this moving from anxiety to agency. The anxiety was created when people were told this is a deadly virus to a small proportion of people and there was government action by telling people to stay at home. We banked on that to control the spread of this disease and people became anxious. Now we have to convert that anxiety and approach we took early on to say to people ‘your actions are important’.”
Karim said the country was now at the stage of the pandemic where government action will only achieve a small change.
Agency is about us taking back the power to influence our risk. Do you feel you have the ability to influence your destiny? We can’t expect to get all of these prevention measures implemented through enforcement but it now depends on people understanding that their actions impact on their risk, their families’ risk and their communities’ risk.
If they put themselves at risk they put everybody at risk and that realisation is going to be central to everybody changing their behaviour.
Karim said the epidemic is still at a low level in much of the country ‘but we have a rapidly growing epidemic with well established community transmission in the Western Cape’. “We have an early starting epidemic in the Eastern Cape and we have the very early stages of transmission in Gauteng and to a lesser extent in KZN.
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