January 8, 2021

Local public health practitioner discusses her thoughts on government’s handling of Covid-19

PARKWOOD – Most concerning, according to Dr Choonara, is Sassa running out of money for temporary disability grants.

Parkwood resident Dr Shakira Choonara believes that while the South African government has led a strong response to the Covid-19 pandemic, she is less confident in their ability to implement a smooth and equitable rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

Choonara is an award-winning independent public health practitioner and member of the inaugural African Union Youth Council.

“The reliance [of government] on top experts in the field to guide the response has been critical. Although over time, there has been a lot of rhetoric and promises. Implementation, as usual, has lagged behind.”

Most concerning, according to Choonara, is Sassa running out of money for temporary disability grants. She is also disappointed to see how public officials have squandered resources, leaving frontline staff vulnerable without personal protective equipment.

“At the ground level, patients also report a disruption to other essential health services, hence while we have a strong response, having other healthcare services on the backburner will have dire long-term consequences.”

Another major concern, which will be on government’s priority list, is the rise of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET). According to Statistics South Africa, of the 10.3 million young people aged 15–24 in Quarter 2 of 2020, 33.9 per cent were not in employment, education or training – an increase of 1.6 per cent since 2019.

Commenting on the public health system response to the pandemic, Choonara is concerned that Covid-19 exposed a weak healthcare system which was not prepared for emergency responses. She added that the system is also not equipped to deal with rising mental health issues as a result of the pandemic.

Choonara is of the belief that community members play a key role in bringing an end to the pandemic.

Continued non-adherence to lockdown measures and high levels of mistrust around the Covid-19 vaccine are major shortfalls.

“Communities will play a central role in dispelling myths and ensuring there is vaccine uptake.”

She was pleased to see the impact of communities helping to mitigate the devastating socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

“Importantly, more affluent communities need to prioritise a helping hand to less affluent communities.”

She also encourages members of the public to continue pushing accountability and transparency within the Covid-19 government response.

Follow her on Twitter @ChoonaraShakira

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