The Jewish Report Editorial

It’s not worth flouting the lockdown laws

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We are in a precarious position. We are gatvol with lockdown, and want to get on with our lives as we knew them. We have just been told by government we have a few more freedoms, but need to be responsible with these. Meanwhile, some of us are throwing caution to the wind simply because we believe we can.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Jun 18, 2020

However, it’s way too soon to do so.

I understand why people feel conflicted about this. How does one accept the president saying children can go back to school and prayer meetings of less than 50 people can be held, but you can’t have a dinner party with 10 people?

Now he has given permission to have dinner out, but should we take that risk? We can even now consider having a hair appointment and heading to the beautician to deal with all those niggly things we have had to ignore for so long. But, again, is this wise or foolish?

There are so many things we have been longing to do. Our children have been cooped up at home for all this time, and there are few things they want more than to celebrate a friend’s birthday with them. Zoom parties just don’t have the same impact. Besides, you can’t eat the birthday cake over Zoom!

It has been three long months, and lockdown has seemed interminable. For the most part, any enjoyment we had in the cosiness and comfort of our families, with fewer time pressures, has come and gone.

We all want to interact. We want to hug our people. We want to resume our lives, but we can’t just yet.

We have managed to reclaim a few things from our old lives and there are now a few more things we will be allowed to do that may feel closer to normality. We will soon be able to go out for dinner, not just have takeaways at home. Many of our children have gone back to school, albeit in a different format – with social distancing, regular sanitisation, and masks. Many of us who weren’t able to work from home are now back at work.

So, there have been improvements in the quality of our lives, but those give us only a taste of what we so long for. They remind us of what our lives were like.

The urge to break lockdown and dismiss social distancing exists in truckloads. However, we can’t succumb to it no matter how much we want to.

Let’s look at the statistics first to see why not. South Africa is fast working its way up the international COVID-19 infection list. A few weeks ago, we were way down the list that ranks countries by numbers of infections and deaths.

We are now ranked number 21 in terms of numbers of infections, with 80 412 confirmed cases and as of Thursday, 18 June, we have had 1 674 deaths. We are now just two below China, which was the initial epicentre of COVID-19, and where it all started. Remember how shocked we were at the huge numbers of infections and deaths from coronavirus. Well, now China’s 83 293 overall infections don’t seem so high. It’s less than 3 000 more infections than we have, and we’re climbing fast.

Until recently, we also kept looking at what was happening in Israel, which was initially way ahead of us in infections and deaths. Well, now, Israel has passed its peak of the virus, and numbers 48 on the list. Interestingly, its overall infection rate to date is 19 894, with 303 deaths. Its numbers are much lower than ours and, as our medical experts keep telling us, our numbers are on the steep upward trajectory. We are at least a month away from our proposed peak of infections.

So, are we ready to go back to shul? Are we ready for dinner parties? Are we ready to take any unnecessary risks – even if the government allows them? We certainly aren’t.

We need to keep in mind – no matter how hard it is for us – that we need to avoid adding to the death toll. Any risk we take could increase the numbers.

I have no doubt that not one person we know in or outside of our community would want to do that. However, this secret killer doesn’t wait for us to do something on purpose. It doesn’t wait for us to have regrets about the chances we took. It goes wherever it can, and if you just happen to be a match for what it’s looking for, you could be next on its list. And, who’s to say exactly how your body will react? Who’s to tell how your mother, aunt, best friend, boyfriend’s body will react.

Last week, we wrote about the secret home minyanim that are taking place. We had lots of feedback from people claiming we are targeting the frum by writing about this.

Can I honestly say that whether you are frum or secular, right-wing or left-wing, whatever your beliefs are, we at the SA Jewish Report care about you and your lives? We don’t want the number of community members who contract this virus to go up any more than it has to. We want to curtail more unnecessary deaths.

We are fully aware of the numbers around the world of frum people who have contracted this coronavirus in shuls, minyanim, and yeshivas, and they are ridiculously high.

If one article we put in this newspaper makes people feel a little uncomfortable about going to one of these secret minyanim because they aren’t sure it’s a good idea, then I’m grateful. I feel the same about someone sending their child to a birthday party during level 3 lockdown, or going to a dinner party.

As a newspaper, it’s our responsibility to do what’s best for the community. I accept that not everyone agrees with everything we do. That’s fine. We can’t be all things to all people, but we try.

If people are flouting the lockdown laws, our role isn’t to humiliate them by naming and shaming them, it’s simply to tell you what’s happening and what the experts say about it. You then have the information at hand to make your own decisions.

So, before you take your child to a long-awaited party or invite dozens of guests for Shabbos dinner, something you have longed to do for three months, think about what you could be doing. And then, don’t do it. Let’s stick together and save lives. Let’s not risk our lives and that of the others we care about.

Shabbat Shalom!

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