🔒 Prof Alan Whiteside: Covid-19’s sad reality as politics takes centre stage with Dr Gray, Cummings, Bolsonaro

Former UKZN professor and now CIGI chair in Global Health Policy, Prof Alan Whiteside, continues calling a spade a bloody shovel in this forthright update on the coronavirus pandemic. He weighs in on the needless furore around the head of SA’s Medical Research Council – and the very necessary one around Dominic Cummings (pictured), UK PM Boris Johnson’s special advisor, who designed the UK’s lockdown rules and deliberately broke them when his wife got the virus. In the light of SA’s record 1,700 new infections yesterday, Prof Whiteside explains why, from a medical perspective, SA’s lockdown may have been lifted too soon. – Alec Hogg

Professor Alan Whiteside, based in the UK but with strong South African connections, speaks to Biznews editor-in-chief- Alec Hogg about his most recent missive where he looks into how politics has now increasingly come into the Covid-19 pandemic, not only in South Africa but in many other parts of the world.

The furore around SA Medical Research Council president and CEO Dr Glenda Gray, whom Whiteside refers to as ‘a remarkably good paediatrician’, is discussed with reference to her being in the crossfire from Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, for making a media statement that malnutrition has resurfaced for the first time in decades at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. Calls for her conduct to be investigated were eventually dropped, yet Whiteside claims that this reflects the behaviour of senior politicians.

Whiteside further stated that this is linked to the “small-minded behaviour” of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Bheki Cele who appear to be withholding from South Africans everything that gives them pleasure, which may be “partly about the control of the ANC and partly about people showing their true colours”.

He believes that the furore caused by Gray’s statement mirrors the commotion which has resulted from Dominic Cummings’ (Boris Johnson’s chief advisor) recent and blatant disregard for the lockdown regulations that he himself devised, in that both these scenarios and their reactions are simply distractions from the issues. Cummings furthermore failed to admit or even apologise for his transgression of the regulations.

Whiteside further claims that the Covid-19 numbers in South Africa are telling us that the lockdown may have been lifted too soon. Though he believes that the move to Level 3 has to happen, he understands that President Cyril Ramaphosa is “having to do a very nimble egg dance” in trying to balance getting the economy back online and managing the pandemic – a nuance which is easily lost on politicians.

When asked what his advice to the Covid task team would be, Whiteside says there are a few things that one can do – wear masks, don’t go out unless you absolutely have to and highlight and take action in the high-risk areas of the country.

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