Issues of civil liberties and individual agency aside, if you’re a totalitarian state like China with massive coercive power and the resources — scientific, medical, military and economic — to back up the measures you introduce and support the economic dislocation, or if you are a small island democracy with a manageable population, good health care, decent resources and a largely educated population like New Zealand, you can institute lockdowns early and pretty much eradicate the virus.

On resurgence you will have the tracking, testing and treatment measures to put a comprehensive lid on the pandemic insofar as it affects your country.

If you are a relatively poor country, populous and corrupt to boot, and if your health-care systems are in a parlous state, your housing, sanitation and education in a mess and your fiscal cupboard is bare, lockdowns won’t really be a viable solution.

The best you can do is try to ensure (with rigorous civic, funder and opposition oversight) that sensible precautions are taken and encouraged, that monies are spent on health systems readiness and that you ensure vaccines are procured and rolled out as efficiently and as widely as possible.

You will need to allow the private health-care sector to service its constituency, the state sector to be ramped up adequately to service those dependent on it and civic society non-governmental organisations such as Gift of the Givers to intervene and assist with their proven logistical efficiency — along with others such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and the like. Co-ordination is required, not command and control.

Will the ANC government do this? You can bet against it — because the sheer common sense of it all flies in the face of its twisted political and continued rent-seeking agenda.

Ghaleb Cachalia, MP
Via e-mail

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