The reports coming off Muizenberg beach at the weekend pretended to be real news. But behind the earnest questions and patiently held microphones there was the unmistakable faux-professionalism of the patronising tabloid writer who keeps a straight face, nods sympathetically and then asks: “So when did you first start suspecting that aliens had turned your husband into a jar of Bovril?”

The voyeurs knew exactly what they were looking for — online advertising for the event featured the dog-whistle “scamdemic” — and they weren’t disappointed. An elderly woman, looking serenely vacant, claimed that she was a skilled virologist, immunologist and quantum physicist, before explaining that viruses were parasites that couldn’t be transferred between people and that masks were therefore useless...

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