LEAKED: SOUTH AFRICAN SCIENTISTS FINALLY TAKE A STAND ON DESTRUCTIVE COVID-19 MEASURES?
By Shabnam Palesa Mohamed – TrialSiteNews Africa
In an intriguing U-turn on the science and practicality of quarantining and tracing Covid-19 contacts in a so-called ‘third world country’, the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on C19 issued a recent leaked recommendation that stirred up debate and raised questions on motives. TrialSite News Africa lead Shabnam Palesa Mohamed takes a closer look.
What is the crux of the leaked MAC recommendation?
The far-reaching 4-page recommendation by the MAC, co-chaired by Professor Koleka Mlisana (National Health Laboratory Service) and Professor Marian Jacobs (University of Cape Town) was dated 16 December 2021. According to DENOSA (Democratic Nurses of South Africa), the communique was meant for the minister of health, Joe Paahla, but it was leaked. The Department of Health will apparently not implement the recommendations, which are based on the following admission: “quarantining and contact tracing are of negligible public health.
- The abolition of quarantine (the isolation of well individuals who are believed to have come into contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19).
- The immediate cessation of contact tracing (finding all contacts of a positive case).
What significant highlights are contained in the recommendation?
- The failure of quarantining: With hunger and poverty at boiling point, the MAC finally admits the “substantial economic and social burden” of quarantining, including the “loss of income, loss of employment, and loss of schooling time”. But is this a case of too little, too late?
- No discrimination between vaccinated and unvaccinated: Suggesting an acceptance of the equal transmission risk between the jabbed and the unjabbed, they say the vaccination status of people not diagnosed as having COVID-19 should not be a point of discrimination.
- Natural immunity: The admission that acknowledges natural immunity is significant as the reluctance to admit natural immunity has been rigorously debated: “the proportion of people with immunity to COVID-19 (from vaccination and/or infection) has risen”.
- The virus cannot be contained or eliminated:This admission highlights measures which try to slow or stop the spread as the impact on the South African economy and psyche has been massive: “efforts to eliminate and/or contain the virus are not likely to be successful”.
- Transmission dynamics: The recommendation refers to “an outdated understanding of the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2”. This includes spread via aerosols which “can occur over distances greater than 1-1.5 meters”, negating social distancing as a containment tactic
- Suboptimal test sensitivity: There is an admission that the testing used is “suboptimal” with reference to the sensitivity. Note: The PCR test is criticised nationally and internationally for both false positive (high cycle threshold values are used) and false negative results.
- No unnecessary testing: A person need not test unless they “become[s] symptomatic”. This is a radical shift from the largely debunked ‘asymptomatic but positive’ theory. A group of academics also raised the alarm on costly C19 testing, that wasted hours of treatment time.
A peculiar science shift is happening. But will it persevere?
The recommendations by the MAC are supported by groups of academics who finally made a fresh approach public. The first group is WITS University-based Shabir Madhi, Jeremy Nel, and Francois Venter, who penned this article on 15 December 2021. The second group also published a day before the MAC recommendation, including Hassan Mahomed, David Pienaar, Mary-Ann Davies, Angela De Sa, Andrea Mendelsohn, and Benjamin Botha — academics in the medical field at the University of Cape Town or officials at the Western Cape Department of Health. Of course other respected experts have opined the same and more for months, and are ignored, censored or ridiculed. Why?
How are frontline experts reacting to the apparent shifts?
Outspoken intensivist and anesthetist Prof Nathi Mdladla responds to TrialSite News Africa: I’ve been having restless nights about a response I want to write to the recent MAC recommendations and the outstanding ones they are not addressing. The first issue with this revision is its lateness, proving once more that “guidelines are for the obedience of fools and guidance of wise men”.
I actually wrote about the absurdity of closing buildings after a positive case had been in the premises and extended this to the predictable problem prolonged isolation of otherwise healthy positive staff would have on patient outcomes. As a result, our hospital abandoned many of the MAC’s guidelines and followed what was practical for us. Staff was still allowed to follow national guidelines but not discouraged to return as soon as they were healthy. We did away with contact quarantining and were doing symptom watching from the first wave.
This move by the MAC has many potential hidden agendas behind it. The imminent one I can pick up is a need to garner public confidence in the face of a progressive perception of a committee out of touch with reality. It is also interesting that this change of direction is considered necessary because it’s from UCT – Prof Marion Jacobs has a past relationship with the institution and is naturally sensitive to its outputs, even if they are rehashing what we’ve been telling them for over 15months.
I am more concerned about the last paragraph of this article, which is still showing the old biases not supported by science, and especially the conclusion on vaccines being supported by science when the evidence is quite clear right now in South Africa.
Mdadla recently wrote a powerful piece about the Omicron variant vs mandatory vaccines and vaccine passports, published in BizNews, also the very day before the MAC recommendation.
Are there any socio-political dynamics to consider?
Former president Jacob Zuma was recently ordered back to jail as part of a high-profile case against him regarding corruption. Meanwhile, current president Cyril Ramaphosa is allegedly recovering from a bout of Omicron variant, after having taken two vaccines. While the former has not endorsed forced vaccines, the current, who is a former trade unionist, is not opposed to mandatory injections.
South African politics being both predictable and unpredictable, vaccines, repurposed medicines, and chaos in the broken health care system can become the basis for a successful political campaign. In a country where HIV, cancer, TB, gender-based violence, and other endemic conditions have been ignored over impractical and costly C19 measures affecting lives and livelihoods, South Africa would support a health care professional with competence, a backbone, and zero conflicts of interest.