The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) has commissioned a new booklet titled "Essential facts about Covid 19 - The disease, the responses, and an uncertain future," August 2.

Through the new material, ASSAf aims to educate the learners, teachers, and the general public across South Africa. The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, was first reported near the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China. In a span of a few months, the highly contagious disease spread to almost everywhere in the world. By now, no country has been spared from the effects of the pandemic - from the loss of lives to economic and social upheaval from efforts to mitigate further damages. In South Africa, the government and its people work towards making the most out of this challenging period in modern medical history.

The booklet "Essential facts about Covid 19 - The disease, the responses, and an uncertain future," is available for access at the ASSAf research repository.

(Photo: Photo by LUCA SOLA/AFP via Getty Images)
An inmate (C) gets his dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19 at the Medium Correctional Center in Johannesburg on July 20, 2021. - South Africa Government vaccination campaign rollout includes starting from July 20, the vaccination of inmates and Correctional Services employees all over the country.

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Equipping the People With Essential Facts About COVID-19

One of the drivers behind the new ASSAf booklet is the closure of the 2020 school year, disrupted by the pandemic. Schools were closed and then began reopening in a phased approach, based on the recommendations made by the Department of Education in South Africa and with support from the international community, such as UNICEF. Academics from ASSAf, together with other invited scholars, gathered around to create "Essential facts about Covid 19 - The disease, the responses, and an uncertain future." The commissioned booklet aims to help the public understand the basic scientific facts behind COVID-19, helping them better understand the crisis and the options available in response to it.

One of the points emphasized in the book is that the threat of infectious diseases is not an entirely new phenomenon without a traceable and understandable origin. They have been a part of human history for centuries and maybe even longer. In fact, a 2019 study on the Psychiatry of Pandemics notes that widespread infectious diseases have been described and referenced in sacred texts - indicating the presence of these conditions in early human history. Furthermore, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have begun warning the public to prepare for the next pandemic, noted for example in a June 2020 article from British news outlet BBC.

Preparing the People for the Uncertain Future After a Pandemic

In the booklet, ASSAf also notes that COVID-19 is still a significant global problem that remains to be conquered. On a positive note, the global concerted effort to develop vaccines against the disease has been met with unprecedented urgency and efficiency, with ongoing deployment to protect populations everywhere.

However, while the vaccines have performed far better than initial conservative estimates, there are still places where the public expresses distrust and hesitation to get vaccinated - South Africa among them. This behavior impedes the vaccination campaign, which ultimately hopes to vaccinate a sufficient part of the population to limit the transmission of the disease. Through the "Essential facts about Covid 19 - The disease, the responses, and an uncertain future," ASSAf hopes to disseminate basic knowledge to the wider public and help them make informed decisions in the face of COVID-19.


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