Over 100 nations had implemented lockdowns by March 2020, but lockdowns during pandemic may no longer be a benefiting strategy in the future, particularly in South African nation.
On March 23, 2020, South Africa declared a national lockdown, and experts believe that the benefits of these restrictions and lockdowns are questionable more than two years later.
In the current edition of the South African Journal of Science (SAJS), Shabir Madhi, a vaccinology professor at Wits University, and Jonathan Jansen, a professor of Education at Stellenbosch University, write that “the experience over the past 27 months shows clearly that lockdowns and many Covid-19 regulations in South Africa largely failed in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections from transpiring.”
The disparity in wealth
“How to Do Social Distancing in a Shack,” their article, highlights several significant challenges associated with trying to impose lockdowns and restrictions based on “middle-class sensibilities” that ignored factors such as poverty, food insecurity, and gender-based violence.
“Whereas South Africa has experienced a high Covid-19 infection in comparison to many other comparable economic standing countries,” they write, “this is due in part to the country’s wealth gap. Regulations aimed at preventing CoV-2 infection have had unintended consequences.”
One of the consequences has been unemployment. By 2021, multiple parts of the economy had been impacted, leaving only 42% of the workforce employed. According to their projections, employment will likely return to pre-recession levels by 2024–26.
As a result, the full impact of the Covid-19 has yet to be realized, and imposing and maintaining ongoing regulations in the name of attempting to prevent CoV-2 infections, when all evidence points to them failing miserably in South Africa must be abandoned immediately.
Madhi, who oversaw vaccine trials in South Africa for Covid Novavax and AstraZeneca, has previously rebuked the country’s lockdowns as counterproductive.
He stated in 2020 December that SA had been an example of how lockdowns fail to contain the spread of Covid. Apart from upsetting the economy, all it did in the region was delay the virus’s peak.
He also emphasized the government’s lack of preparation for the June 2021 vaccination rollout, pointing out that the government did not engage pharmaceutical companies early enough to ensure vaccine acquisition. Other elements, such as accessibility, he claimed, hampered vaccination’s rapid spread.
Restrictions do not prevent high infection rates
In their latest SAJS article, Madhi and Jansen cite DATCOV data, which analyzes hospital-based admissions and lives lost. These findings demonstrated that non-pharmaceutical interventions and restrictions (such as hand washing and physical distance) were ineffective in preventing a wide range of infections.
This is supported by Gauteng sero-surveys, which look at antibodies in blood and indicate previous infection. More than 70% of adult people in the region had previously been infected with Covid in the first three waves, before the Omicron version emerged, according to the data. According to Fin24, Discovery estimates that by August 2021, 80 percent of South Africans will have Covid, making the country amongst the worst-affected in the world.
In addition, evidence suggests that South Africa was not immune to the pandemic. As of 7 May 2022, the Covid deaths in SA (523 per 100 000) has been more than double that of the UK (197 per 100 000), according to excess death data. According to recent research, the long-term consequences of lockdowns are more likely to be severe in low- and medium countries.