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What is the best word to describe 2020? Entropy. Taken from:https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/entropy

Entropy is a measure of randomness or chaos, with thermodynamic systems inevitably tending to states of increased entropy over time, eventually lending themselves to complete disorder. Watching the events of the past year unfold, it has been hard to escape the feeling that our systems and societies were gripped by a state of entropy. First, we were plagued by a pandemic caused by an (initially) unknown agent. We gradually taught ourselves to greet each day with the knowledge of mass death, and lumbering through the economic upheaval that followed. We then saw, through the lens of a teenager’s smartphone camera, the death of George Floyd and the unflinching realities of racism and systemic inequality. …


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https://unsplash.com/photos/QgYvORVDdd8

In Vox’s ‘explained’ Netflix series, an episode dissecting the gender pay gap highlights a disturbing phenomenon: much of the differences in pay between genders are attributable to our widely held stereotypes and beliefs. Hilary Clinton makes a striking example: if you are a man, you should decorate your workspace with pictures of your children, so that you are seen as a committed father. But if you are a woman, you should not do this, as the perception will be that you can’t keep your mind on the work at hand.

The COVID19 pandemic has unearthed a number of damaging societal phenomena that we thought were either dealt with or were in the process of being extinguished: it has had varying impacts on individuals of different socio-economic statuses and races, with Bill Gates opining that the pandemic will end in 2021 for the rich world. Parallel to this, a separate phenomenon has emerged: women are still seen as primary care givers, or work lower paid jobs, and thus suffered the greatest job loss as a result of the pandemic and the associated lockdowns. According to Independent Online, of the 3 million South Africans that had lost jobs as of 15 July, 2 million of those were women. Highlighting the critical role intersectionality has played in this phenomenon, the Independent Online…


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https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/30354771550/in/photostream/

On the 31st of December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases was reported in Wuhan, China. A novel coronavirus strain, which we now know as SARS-CoV-2, was eventually identified as the agent causing these pneumonia cases: a respiratory disease we now know as COVID-19. With a new disease comes new questions: What is the disease course? Do we have a working vaccine? What can we use to cure it?

Yet one thing about the SARS-CoV-2 quickly became apparent: its lipid envelope is no match for alcohol based sanitisers. Initial reports also speculated that the sun and higher temperatures inactivate SARS-CoV-2 particles. Perhaps these observations, coupled with an urge to answer some of these unknowns and provide leadership to a country with 3.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, propelled United States President Donald Trump to suggest the use of disinfectants and UV lights to combat SARS-CoV-2 infection. …


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In the wake of #BlackOutTuesday, a global social media effort involving uploading a black square to your profile, questions have been raised surrounding the sincerity of some efforts. Enter Virtue Signalling: the action of posting about relevant social justice movements in a bid to prove that you are concerned, when you really aren’t, or otherwise do not make any other concerted efforts at addressing the problem.

From the context in which this term has been used, it seems that it has taken root in a dislike for oversharing: sharing all the details in your life that people don’t need to know about. I also believe it is an offspring of the current culture against posting prentious content on your social media: presenting onself as a globe-trotting worry free individual, even when the reality is different. …


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Sometimes, I wonder how Shasta is holding up.

Shasta is the name my dissection group chose for our cadaver, a name that’s supposed to symbolise that she is s teacher who has donated the physical aspect of her being for us to learn from. Sitting behind a computer, many miles away, doing a virtual dissection, I cast my mind

back to the times earlier in the year: standing around Shasta, discussing the same muscle on end, and making the occasional foray to my friends' dissection groups.

I find myself in a very different world now.

Across the globe, lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have forced students out of the classroom and onto their laptops. Teachers and professors have had to become crafty with lessons given on Skype, Zoom, or through narrated PowerPoints. While the dominant narrative

around these arrangements frames them as a compromise, I argue that some aspects of them may be here to stay, and may even make for a more inclined group of learners. …


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I think I would call myself a headline addict.

Addict, to indicate that there are points where my scrolling through headlines has become mindless. Not a search of the latest, greatest and most important, but a habit of opening the news app as an in-betweener. In between classes, for instance. At a stage, in between sets. In between stages of sleep at 3am.

With coronavirus killing people and infecting more each day, most headlines are dominated by its effects, the scientific advances to address it, or the politics and economics surrounding it.

But I can't help but wonder: exactly what was on headlines before this? …


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Written in conjunction with: Dr S.H. Vilane

Coronaviruses were first described in poultry in the 1930’s, causing respiratory, gut, liver and neurological diseases in animals. 7 Coronaviruses are known to cause disease in humans: 4 most frequently cause symptoms of the common cold, with the remaining 3 causing severe and sometimes fatal respiratory failure in humans. These have caused major outbreaks of deadly pneumonia in the 21st century:

  1. SARS-CoV-2 is the cause of the COVID-19 disease which began in Wuhan, China in late 2019.
  2. MERS-CoV is a betacoronavirus that caused for the 2012 MERS outbreak. …


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Above: an actress emulating Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, who told hungry peasants to ‘eat cake’

There is a certain time during your country’s lockdown (or social distancing measures) when it no longer crosses your mind that you’re living during a pandemic. Some people describe this moment as ‘surreal’: while we hang on in our little enclaves, figuring out which Netflix show to binge next, there is a war against an invisible agent outside. A war that it seems we only have to fight when we stand in supermarket lines, 6 feet apart from each other.

I don’t think we intend to be momentarily ignorant (for lack of a better term). Nobody’s emotional wellbeing would emerge at the other end of this pandemic intact if we constantly put it to ourselves to internalize every new update about Coronavirus and it’s effects. But it’s rapidly becoming clear that the different ways in which Coronavirus affects us, due to differing social factors, has exposed levels of ignorance that remind me of Marie Antoinette urging a distraught and hungry public to ‘eat cake’. …


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As I scroll through my YouTube recommendations, a video from Cambridge University pops up: ‘Spanish Flu: a warning from history’. I can’t shake the ominous feeling that hangs in the room when I notice that it was posted a year ago. Of late, a lot of people are telling us that we should have known, the same way we often conceptualise most courses of natural death. Even if we see it coming, it catches us unaware.

For all the grief and surprise it bears, death has become a surprisingly normal installment of the day of late. Everyday, there are statistics relaying the number of people who have died in the wake of the pandemic. There has been no other time in my life that I could rattle the number of people who had died of a particular cause in a day or in the past couple of months, and I sense that the human relationship with death is changing in ways we would never expect. …


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2 weeks ago, I went on an early morning run. The streets were empty, and around the world, as other countries began to see the worst that Coronavirus (a disease otherwise known as COVID19 and caused by the SARS-CoV-2 strain) could bring, I wondered if the same could happen to my country.

I wondered if I would find myself in a reality where I ran in streets with names, but so empty that they lacked personality.

Aside from being a biological phenomenon, Coronavirus has proved a test of many things: leadership, human cooperation and above all of the information systems that modern society has in place. This has prompted many analysts to conclude that the real pandemic here is that of misinformation, with many internet users feeling overwhelmed by the constant updates on a virus that we still seem to know so little about. …

About

Asande Vilane

Your neighbourhood physician-politician. 2nd year medicine. Instagram: @asandevilane

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