Opinion: Covid has South Africa by its throat. How I dodged his frightening grip
I am also one of the lucky ones who were able to continue to earn a living by working from home. I rarely go out, unlike the hundreds of thousands of South African taxis and other public transport users who face an increased risk of contracting the virus.
But in early June, I had no choice: I needed to interview several people for a corruption investigation I was working on, and my sources only spoke to me in person.
I felt the risk was low as I had been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine six weeks earlier – enough time to develop immunity to the virus. Nonetheless, I left well prepared with a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket. I also wore two well-fitting masks, each with additional, replaceable filter material inserted into a special pocket, as I normally do on the rare occasion I go out in public.
At a time when the Delta variant is popping up around the world, someone like me who is vaccinated may be lulled into a false sense of security, but in South Africa, where vaccination rates are lagging far behind. , the threat remains quite high – and until vaccination rates increase – additional precautions are needed.
Arriving for my meeting at Hout Bay Harbor in Cape Town, I found myself in a small room with two other people, neither of them wearing masks. I was able to position myself about 2 meters – over 6 feet – from them, but at the start of the interview several other people, none of whom were wearing masks, entered the room.
Feeling very uncomfortable, I asked, after less than five minutes, if we could continue outside. But it was too late. In those few minutes, despite all my precautions, I now believe that I had been infected.
About two weeks later, I developed barking, a dry cough, and a sore throat, and sneezed non-stop. I was also breathing with difficulty – but, due to the vaccination and all my precautions, I convinced myself that it was the flu and decided that all I needed was paracetamol and bed rest.
The next day, my body ached like I had done a few rounds with a professional boxer, and I literally took my breath away. My doctor, after a phone consultation, told me that I had to take a Covid test. He also prescribed cortisone and a very strong antibiotic.
If my breathing got worse or my oxygen level dropped below 94, I should go straight to the nearest emergency room as I may need oxygen or even hospitalization. , did he declare.
Almost miraculously, the next morning my oxygen levels improved and I was able to breathe easier. I still didn’t feel well, but my condition improved significantly. I am now almost fully recovered, although I still have lingering after-effects from Covid, including fatigue and confused thoughts if I overwork myself.
What followed surprised me: While many people wished me luck, others – either anti-vaccines or vaccine-hesitant – took my experience as proof that Covid vaccinations don’t work. , rather than minimizing my illness and helping speed up my recovery.
âWhile South Africa delivered only 1.6 vaccines per 100 people, Namibia delivered twice that rate, and Botswana and Zimbabwe more than three times that rate. South Africa accounts for 43% of confirmed deaths from Covid-19 but only 3% of vaccinations in Africa, âthe Daily Maverick reported.
But it’s too late to help with South Africa’s third wave of Covid infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
For me, having already reported and read a lot about Covid, I believed so before, but after my own experience I’m even more certain.