By Dr Karin van der Merwe, a general practitioner working in Johannesburg. Founding member of GGPC ( Gauteng General Practitioners collaboration) which has a platform for doctors to share resources during COVID-19 . Look for  #voicesthatcare on the GGPC Facebook page.
As the COVID numbers increase I get a lump in my throat. The dread rises up inside me as I realise we are riding the second wave. The timing is terrible. Finally South Africans are finishing work and going on well-deserved holidays. We want to let our hair down and connect with family and friends and celebrate the festive season. How cruel this disease is to rob us of this precious time. Could it not have waited a couple of months?
Navigating the Festive Season Safely
Unfortunately as we let our hair down we better not let our guard down, nor our masks for that matter. The gentleman with blue lips and air hunger that I sent for admission yesterday was a harsh reminder that COVID is real. His wife was desperate for him to stay home with her. It broke my heart to confess that I wasn’t sure if the hospital would allow visiting. Many have unwittingly said their last goodbyes at the hospital entrance.
I have been asking my patients how they think they got COVID and many have no idea but some can guess. Sometimes its obvious.
  • I have a handful of teens who got it from the Ballito matric RAGE.
  • I have a patient who probably got it nursing her ailing father and knows she got too close but couldn’t help herself.
  • Then there are those who went to parties. The 30 year old Mom of 2 small children who went to an outdoor children’s party that turned indoor due to the weather and was, she admits, “fairly chaotic”.
  • The runner who had a drink at the pub after the running meeting and “let’s just say the alcohol was free flowing”.
  • The middle aged lady who arrived for a braai where the host admitted she had a cold but “it couldn’t be COVID”. Needless to say it was.
  • The elderly man with multiple co-morbidities who has religiously stayed home until one outing to a restaurant with old friends.

Even more scary are those who have been following all their self-imposed rules and can only blame the odd shopping outing. This virus is insanely catchy.

covid in the festive season

How do we keep Covid safe during the festive season?

I don’t think it helps to point fingers or blame.
  • We need to be kind to ourselves and others.
  • We need to calculate risks and be bold enough to say “no” sometimes.
  • We need to stay home when we are sick.
  • When weather upsets the outdoor party, we need to be bold enough to cancel.
  • We need to plan small gatherings for the festive season.
  • We need to tell our friends we are not hugging this year.
  • We need to stay outside.
I don’t think we should ban all interaction with others. This is unrealistic and will cause more anguish than it’s worth but it’s up to every individual to take responsibility for their health and the health of those around them.
I believe we as South Africans can show the world how to celebrate safely.
Related useful articles:
  • Staying in hotels during the Covid-19 pandemic, by Dr Sheri Fanaroff. Read more
  • Travel safe and travel wise in the era of Covid-19, by Dr Karin van der Merwe and Dr Venitha Seral. Read more.
  • Is it safe to visit the gym during the pandemic, by Dr Sheri Fanaroff. Read more.
  • Let’s go on a family outing in Gauteng, Jozikids. Read more
  • Isolation kit: a shopping list to help you get through. Read more.
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