The big story: It’s the real covid, so please stand up

The past 15 months of lockdown have been something of a dress rehearsal for Gauteng. 🙈 Compared to what we’re seeing now, the province’s first two waves look relatively tame. 

We told you previously that authorities were doing their best to stop the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, from reaching SA. But it was impossible to contain and it’s now our most dominant variant, driving a deadly third wave. Gauteng’s hospitals are under serious pressure. 

Like us, India didn’t experience the nightmare scenarios that played out early in Italy and New York, with doctors having to choose who lived. Experts wondered about some sort of natural immunity among Indian and African populations – but the Delta variant emerged in India and wreaked havoc. Fatalities soared; hospitals were overwhelmed and funeral pyres burned non-stop. 

Things have suddenly become very real. But, at the same time, we’re all REALLY fatigued with the whole Covid business. Many have been relatively careful and avoided catching the virus, so it’s tempting to believe we’ll keep being lucky. Don’t be fooled, though: this variant is a new ball game. It is TWICE as contagious as the original virus. 

So on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa had to take us back to lockdown level 4 for the first time since May last year. Most thought we’d never be here again, given the effect of restaurant closures and an alcohol ban on the economy. with restaurants closed and alcohol banned, given what it does to the economy. But we had no choice. Other provinces are in danger and experts worry things are likely to get much worse as the new variant spreads. 

This isn’t unique to SA. Australia has introduced new lockdown measures for the first time thanks to the variant, after also being rather lax about getting its population vaccinated. China, meanwhile, is setting up giant quarantine centres. 

The good news, however, is that the variant is not necessarily deadlier. The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have shown great effectiveness against it while studies are still being conducted on the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Remember, even if a vaccine isn’t 100% effective against the new variant, It’s better to get the vaccine than not – it could well save your life by limiting the severity of the infection. 

Plus: If you are 50 and older, you are eligible to start registering for the vaccine in SA from today – vaccinations begin on 15 July. 

One more time, let’s say it together (even if you’re exhausted): we can do this. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 01July 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.