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Is it even possible to lock down townships and informal settlements, asks Prof

29 March 2020 3:33 PM
Tags:
University of Johannesburg
APARTHEID
#Covid19
social distancing
#lockdown21
South Africa's townships
Institute for the Future of Knowledge

Professor Alex Broadbent (UJ) on his argument that a one-size-fits-all approach to Covid-19 could have lethal consequences.

Professor Alex Broadbent published an article in The Conversation exploring why a one-size-fits-all approach to Covid-19 could have lethal consequences.

He questions why the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is the same globally while contexts, particularly in Africa, are different.

Informal settlements in South Africa. Image: 123rf.com

The UJ Professor of Philosophy and director of the Institute for the Future of Knowledge speaks to Africa Melane on Weekend Breakfast.

He's worried about whether it's actually even possible, in fact, to lock down overcrowded townships and informal settlements.

Lockdown works great in the suburbs... But in a crowded context it's very, very hard to see how that can even work... with ten people in a single accommodation and a toilet 100 metres away...

Prof. Alex Broadbent, Director - Institute for the Future of Knowledge

But what is the alternative under the circumstances?

According to Prof. Broadbent, it's partly to come up with "slightly more reasonable restrictions".

There is in my opinion no reason to ban daily exercise, and no reason to ban the sale of cigarettes. There is no ban on drinking alcohol and yet you see soldiers smashing bottles in the streets... The ban is on the sale of alcohol.

Prof. Alex Broadbent, Director - Institute for the Future of Knowledge

I understand it's complicated, but I think it would make life a bit easier if some of the restrictions actually had a direct public health benefit and some of them simply don't seem to.

Prof. Alex Broadbent, Director - Institute for the Future of Knowledge

He believes there should be more focus too, on mental health.

We live in countries with a lot of gender-based violence; locking people up without their cigarettes in small rooms with each other is not a recipe to improve that situation.

Prof. Alex Broadbent, Director - Institute for the Future of Knowledge

Broadbent compares the restrictions imposed in China with those in effect in Europe and applies the argument to Africa.

He says regional characteristics should be taken into account - like South Africa's geographical apartheid inheritance, for instance.

In the way that apartheid designed the country, which is abhorrent... we do have substantial gaps in many places between suburbs and townships. You can lock down a suburb... it's nice and quiet... but I don't think that's the same thing at all as locking down a large township where people are going to sit in their very hot accommodation with a large number of other people.

Prof. Alex Broadbent, Director - Institute for the Future of Knowledge

It's abhorrent in itself, but in this context could be quite helpful. You can separate regions in a way that China managed to and the rest of the world - Italy in particular - has not managed to. Regional quarantine did not work in Italy while it was effective in China.

Prof. Alex Broadbent, Director - Institute for the Future of Knowledge

In a similar way we have in the whole of Africa very large rural expanses which are very sparsely populated, and then overcrowding where there is population. That's a totally different context to the context of the middle of Europe where you can really see things exploding, where you have large cities constantly intermingling with each other.

Prof. Alex Broadbent, Director - Institute for the Future of Knowledge

We can't contain the disease says the professor, but we can slow its spread and the trick is to slow the geographical spread.

Listen to Prof. Broadbent explain his argument in the audio below:


29 March 2020 3:33 PM
Tags:
University of Johannesburg
APARTHEID
#Covid19
social distancing
#lockdown21
South Africa's townships
Institute for the Future of Knowledge

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