Risky business: Sunbathers are seen on Bondi Beach in Sydney. Picture: AFP/Farooq Khan
Risky business: Sunbathers are seen on Bondi Beach in Sydney. Picture: AFP/Farooq Khan

"Without co-operation, lockdown is a waste of time," a doctor told an FM reporter.

The anonymous doctor was commenting on a video showing a woman at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital refusing to wait for her test results, even though she is suspected of having Covid-19.

Then there was the family who refused be quarantined at a Gauteng hospital, despite having tested positive for the virus, until compelled by court order to stay put.

From Australians flocking to Bondi Beach to Britons descending on the seaside resort of Skegness to young Italians using the closure of their universities as a bonus holiday to hang out with their friends, one thing shines through like a shooting star: many people don’t give a damn. How do you explain such selfishness? It’s not like the coronavirus disaster has unfolded out of the public eye.

Social media is now swamped with enough memes and videos of sneezing people freaking out their cats and people doing bizarre things in self-isolation to surely plug the gaps that doctors and nurses and epidemiologists and reams of newsprint and oceans of digital ink have failed to fill. It’s the kind of behaviour that makes the profiteers trying to make money out of it look virtuous. Almost. At least they have grasped the simple idea that this coronavirus is stalking humanity. That it has killed more than 17,000 people. That country after country is willing to bomb its own economy if it’ll mean getting a grip on the biggest human disaster since World War 2.

Confronted with pictures and videos like that, is it any surprise that people are willing to give up hard-fought civil liberties, to be tracked on their phones and have the army in the streets if just to make the selfish ones stay at home?