The Malta Independent 20 September 2020, Sunday

Marie Benoit's Diary: Corona Chronicles – Covid-19 in 2020 – An African perspective

Marie Benoît Wednesday, 5 August 2020, 14:39 Last update: about 3 months ago

Dr Susan Vosloo is a Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon in independent private practice at Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa for over 30 years. She lives in Green Point against slopes of Signal Hill with lovely views across Table Bay and Robben Island.

Dr Vosloo performed her first heart transplant at the age of 33. She was the first Pediatric cardio surgeon in South Africa.

She did not meet Prof Christiaan Barnard, who had retired in 1984, until after his return to South Africa in 1988. Dr Vosloo and Prof Barnard were great friends during the retirement phase of his life. She assisted the Prof Chris Barnard Foundation with various Pediatric cardio surgeries. During the 1990s Dr Vosloo played a very important role in the Organ donor Foundation, and she often called upon Prof. Barnard to share his knowledge.

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Together with her husband Anton, an anesthetist she bought a house in 'lovely' Malta in 2009 and regularly spend time there with their twin daughters and friends. 'Most likely Malta will be our future retirement destination,' she says.

Here is her Corona diary from Cape Town

"As this is written, still unable to travel, Malta's sunshine is sorely missed. It's mid-winter in the Southern hemisphere. Facing consequences of strategies applied to the novel Covid-19 pandemic, we drift on a tragic trajectory worldwide, particularly in Africa.

One wonders: Are the 'blind' leading the sheeple? The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight, but no vision?

In South Africa, the longest and most severe lockdown in the world remains in place since March 2020, with haphazard ever-changing regulations. It came at a huge cost to society decimating the livelihoods of many.

Instead of focusing on the enhancement of safe management of the ill and protection of the vulnerable minority, the healthy majority is restricted by draconian ways of inconsistent community control, rather than managing the medical challenge.

Covid-19 is the first medical challenge ever predominantly (mis)managed, not by knowledgeable and appropriate medical professionals, but by politicians, bureaucrats, and academics, fuelled by relentless scaremongering media and social media. Years of neglect, maladministration, corruption and extreme inequality was brutally exposed.

The majority of the population of Africa lives from hand to mouth, with no reserves soon after losing their incomes. Unemployment in SA was already at 29% prior to lockdown.

Another three million more jobs were lost since and 47% of households had run out of money to buy food.

All interaction with family and friends, sale of alcohol, tobacco and certain clothing items remain prohibited. A night curfew is in place. In contrast, minimal restrictions are applied to commuters in overloaded minibus taxis, largely eliminating any protective measures.

The state violently turned on the people, with armed police and soldiers rather than education and protection of an already vulnerable society. Authorities indulge in implementation of rules. Over 230,000 individuals were arrested for transgressions of regulations, some were assaulted and even murdered, still without consequences.

Nobody escaped the impact on their lives. As an essential service provider, my routine of daily trips from home to work continued, with every day experienced like a weekend day as medical practices were limited to only emergencies as hospitals reserved capacity for patients with Corona virus infections. In our hospital this never materialized.

The overall dominance of Covid-related measures will continue to impact care of other medical conditions, where loss of lives will most certainly be exceeding any potential mortality due to Covid itself. Fear of visiting hospitals and clinics reduced surveillance and identification of non-Covid medical conditions.

Sweden's management of the pandemic set a plausible benchmark. No strict lockdown was enforced. By mid-July <6,000 deaths (<0.0.6% of its population) were reported. Despite this, their economy did shrink, but collateral damage was mitigated.

George Orwell: The further society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.

As much as deaths from seasonal flu may have been underreported in the past, deaths attributed to Covid-19 are often inaccurately overreported across the world.

In 1918 the Spanish flu claimed over 5% of the world population - mostly young lives. Up to 2018, seasonal flu deaths amounted to around 650,000 annually (0.009%) globally.

Deaths from Covid-19 are now approaching 600,000 of the current world population of 7.7 billion, with an estimated projected mortality predicted at 0.1- 0.3%, way less than 1% of any population. The virus is highly contagious and flu symptoms vary from mild to quite severe, even lethal. Most deaths occur in older individuals with significant co-morbidities.

Daily new infection and death numbers are reported dramatically, without representing perspective relative to the total population. Constant improvements in medical management as the pandemic unfolds, reduced death rates.

In some countries, like South Africa, high previous infection exposures and a relatively young population, with only a third of the population aged over 35 years, may contribute to lower mortality rates compared to the rest of the world.

All our educational Institutions were closed since March. For many home schooling or remote study is largely impossible. My 19-year old twin daughters left their university campus in March, suffering minimal impact adjusting to remote learning. Such relatively 'ideal' circumstances are in sharp contrast to that experienced by most SA children.

Despite an extremely low Covid-19 mortality risk to children, many disadvantaged children had not only their education taken from them, but over 9 million kids were also deprived of the only proper daily meal provided by school feeding programs.

In a country where 25% of children under 5 are already stunted due to lack of nutrition, food insecurity is increased.

As we navigate these tumultuous times bombarded with evolving data, I am reminded of the wise words of Jim Rohn: Let the views of others educate and inform you, but let your decisions be the product of your own conclusions."

If you are interested in reading about Dr Vosloo's work go to the internet.

I visited SA three or four times as I had friends there and usually was on my way to some other African country. It is very sad for me to read Dr Vosloo's report. Africa is such a beautiful continent and I remember the places I visited in South Africa as being European but without the history but instead blessed by mother nature. How can I forget the giraffes and the thorn trees apart from anything else.


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