The Coronavirus Response in South Africa

Countries should not face penalties for effective reporting on coronavirus variants; doing so incentivizes staying silent on dangerous new cases. [Photo: Getty Images]

Note: A podcast episode by WZB’s Soziologische Perspektiven auf die Corona-Krise with Joseph Harris on the same topic can be found here. 

South Africa was hit hard during the country’s first coronavirus wave that began in March 2020. While an aggressive lockdown was initially praised for stopping spread and saving as many as 20,000 lives, the lockdown had important consequences of its own. And as pressure to reopen grew, by July 2020, the country stood mired in the largest coronavirus outbreak on the continent and one of the largest in the world. What factors left South Africa so vulnerable to the coronavirus? What policies and programs comprised the governmental response? How has the country navigated COVID-19 since that time, and what support can Germany and other industrialized nations offer the country today? Based on a chapter Harris wrote on the politics of South Africa’s coronavirus response in an edited volume that can be accessed for free here, his present article explores these questions.

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The Theory of the Many COVID-Worlds

What we (think we) understand about the life-cycle of the pandemic is entangled with our ‘tools of observation’ and their function, and capacity. [Photo: Getty Images]
In 1957, Hugh Everett suggested the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum theory: each time the wave function collapses another universe is created. Given we have one COVID pandemic, and, yet, a multitude of global responses, are global populations living in respective COVID-worlds?

There’s a theory within quantum mechanics called the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI). The many worlds interpretation is intended to resolve one of the meta-paradoxes of quantum: why do the results of quantum experiments not match our everyday experience of the world? Or, more precisely: why is the conduct of quantum experiments unlike the conduct of ‘regular,’ macro-level experiments? Continue reading “The Theory of the Many COVID-Worlds”

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Die Verfassung ist ein Selbstmordpakt

Trump hat die Schattenseiten der amerikanischen Demokratie entblĂ¶ĂŸt [Photo: Getty Images]
Das Ritual des Übergangs beruhte in der amerikanischen Politik bisher auf Ehrerbietung und Anstand ohne formelle Gesetze, die die WĂ€hlerschaft zur Volksabstimmung verpflichten. Doch durch Trumps wiederholte Anstiftung, fĂŒr ihn ungĂŒnstige Ergebnisse zu leugnen sind die Bedingungen reif fĂŒr eine konstitutionelle Krise. WĂ€hrend der friedliche Machtwechsel in den USA den BĂŒrgerkrieg, den Wiederaufbau und die Great Depression ĂŒberstanden hat, könnte Trumps Weigerung zurĂŒckzutreten, verschĂ€rft durch ein Wahlsystem, das in nicht kodifizierte Normen und ungeschriebene Praktiken verstrickt ist, einen Wahlalptraum heraufbeschwören.

Lesen Sie in diesem Artikel von Robert Benson mehr darĂŒber, wie sich die VerknĂŒpfung von Trump mit einem Mangel an Sicherungssystemen in der amerikanischen Verfassung auf die bevorstehenden amerikanischen Wahlen auswirken könnte.

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The ugly face of health politics – COVID-19 and the hypocrisy of the ‘saving lives’ metaphor

Public health must remain a key concern also outside times of crisis [Ashkan Forouzani/Unsplash]

As more and more people are voluntarily or forcefully retreating to their homes and isolating themselves from public life and social contact due to the ongoing global health crisis, it might be a good time to reflect on the circumstance that, according to estimates by WHO and UNICEF, in 2018 globally every five seconds a child or young person under 15 died of preventable infectious diseases, such as measles, or of complications in childbirth – many of them a consequence of unsafe births, lacking personnel, equipment, hygiene, infrastructure, and poor maternal health. A few days ago, I met an acquaintance, whose school-aged children have not been vaccinated against measles, carrying a stack of toilet paper packages in preparation for what was bound to come, the German-wide COVID-19 lockdown. The encounter made me aware of the imbalance between our plausible and humane concern for the safety and well-being of ourselves and those close to us on the one hand and a lack of awareness of our own role in preserving public health beyond COVID-19 on the other.

Continue reading “The ugly face of health politics – COVID-19 and the hypocrisy of the ‘saving lives’ metaphor”

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