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South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown: Doubts creep in

As plenty of nations around the world appeared to flounder, or panic, or even turn their backs on the rising threat of Covid-19, this country was possessed by a rare and extraordinary degree of unity and decisiveness.

President Cyril Ramaphosa – a man whose consensus-building instincts have long been a source of frustration to many here – was transformed into a man of action, brusquely implementing a series of almost unimaginably severe and decisive steps that changed South Africa overnight, and proved stunningly effective at breaking the upward curve of infections.

In an era when so many politicians are reaching for war metaphors and comparisons, this was, you could argue, South Africa’s Dunkirk moment – an inspired retreat in the face of a formidable adversary that bought the country essential time (as the Dunkirk evacuations did for war-time Britain’s military) to regroup and to shore up its defences.

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