The voices missing from South Africa’s response to COVID-19
(courtesy: THE CONVERSATION)
Ten days after South Africa reported its first case of COVID-19 on 5 March 2020, the government moved quickly to declare a national state of disaster. Within days a National Coronavirus Command Council had been formed, travel restrictions imposed and schools closed. A national lockdown was announced on 23 March. This remains in force though restrictions are being lifted slowly.
South Africa’s response has been praised by the head of the World Health Organisation. But it has also come under intense scrutiny from those who cite major shortcomings in how the government has arrived at decisions. Specifically, it’s been criticised for whose advice it has sought and who it has chosen not to engage.
These limitations are exposed in three dimensions.
The first is the reliance on a small subset of the science community in deliberating on the response. South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 is dominated by medics and medical professionals.
The second dimension is the seemingly erratic policy options being communicated from different advisers. For example, some have supported the lockdown while others have been calling for it to be halted.