By Alex Eliott, from Eliott Attorneys | BlackBox Law
Until today, a person who has tested positive for Covid-19 has been forced to go into isolation, not to mention bear the social stigma of carrying the disease that has caused so much trouble around the world. This isolation is a burden that many people are ill-equipped for, whether they are young or old. Isolation from other humans is a profoundly negative experience for most human beings who are after all social animals. It particularly affects those who live alone – mainly older people whose life partners have died and young people who do not yet have life partners. Anecdotally, perhaps 50% of elderly people who have died since the start of lockdown, have died because of their social isolation rather than from Covid-19, while the suicide rate amongst young people has rocketed upwards. Yet isolation from all other people is, as I shall show, unnecessary even on public health grounds. Indeed, segregated isolation could be turned around into a positive experience.
My “positive” plan rests on two pillars. The first is that, as global statistics show, patients in 99% of all Covid-19 cases have mild or no symptoms. Put another way, they might technically be carriers of the disease, but they are not too sick to work or play. The second is that it is medically impossible to catch Covid-19 from another person if you already have the disease. Allied to the second pillar is that having had and survived Covid-19 already, you are immune from the disease and cannot catch it again. So, this means that it is perfectly safe for people who are currently Covid-positive, or have previously had Covid-19 and survived it, to have free and unrestricted human contact with others in the same boat. Here we have a business opportunity – work and leisure venues and activities which are exclusively for people who are currently Covid-positive or who have already had the disease.
As at the date of writing this article, there are more than 81.5 million people globally who have already recovered from Covid, while there are nearly 25.5 million people who have it now with mild or no symptoms. That’s a global market of 107 million people. In South Africa alone, 1.39 million people have recovered from Covid and perhaps 50 000 of the 53 000 or so who have it today have mild or no symptoms. Even in our country, there is a market of more than 1.4 million people for whom attending so-called “spreader events” poses no danger to their health or the health of anyone else.
These “positive” venues and events would of course be open only to people who can produce documentary proof that they are now or have been Covid-positive. Staff who work there would be subject to the same “positive” requirement. Once inside there would be no need for patrons to wear masks. A measure of social normality could be achieved in these closed environments, opening a pathway towards a return to a world of direct and unrestricted human contact. Adopting an open-minded approach to allowing Covid-19 positive people to congregate could re-open doors for old age homes, nightclubs and bars, hotels, sporting events, bridge clubs, parks, beaches, bowls clubs, places of learning, religious gatherings, domestic and international travel, gyms, and so on – it is appreciated that all of these social and leisure activities would also constitute opportunities for employment for Covid-positive staff and avenues for the generation of revenue by Covid-positive entrepreneurs. These business and employment opportunities, being in many cases of a “pop-up” nature, would particularly benefit small businesses. The “positive” plan would also open a window of hope and purpose to many Covid-positive people.
Implementing this plan to turnaround the Covid-19 doldrums into “positive” opportunities for revenue generation and social reconnection would require the government to adopt a creative mindset towards Covid-19 status rather than its current didactic policy of encouraging social stigmatisation of the disease. For example, the regulations under the National Disaster Act would need to be amended, in consultation with private enterprise. Here is where a true public-private partnership would be essential.”