19,137 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa as deaths rise to 369

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 19,137 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 1,134 cases from the 18,003 cases reported on Wednesday, when the country recorded 803 new infections, whilst the highest daily total of 1,160 new infections was recorded on Sunday.

Dr Mkhize said on Thursday (21 May), that the total number of deaths has now reached 369 – an increase of 30 deaths from 339 reported before.

The minister said that tests 525,433 have been conducted, with 18,572 tests in the past 24-hour cycle.

Globally, coronavirus cases topped 5.1 million globally on Thursday, while deaths have exceeded 330,000, with more than 2 million recoveries.

Milestones in the pandemic have become commonplace and only amount to an approximate guidepost, Bloomberg reported. Health experts widely believe the actual count is higher than the official numbers, as Covid-19 has proved difficult to detect and track.

Europe meanwhile, has been warned to brace itself for second wave of coronavirus infections, the Guardian reported, citing the director of the EU agency responsible for advising governments on disease control.

“The question is when and how big, that is the question in my view,” said Dr Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

“Looking at the characteristics of the virus, looking at what now emerges from the different countries in terms of population immunity – which isn’t all that exciting, between 2% and 14%, that leaves still 85% to 90% of the population susceptible – the virus is around us, circulating much more than January and February … I don’t want to draw a doomsday picture but I think we have to be realistic. That it’s not the time now to completely relax.”

A different approach to lockdown easing

Discovery has provided some data on how its members are being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which it said provides some insight in how to potentially get people back into the economy again.

South Africa’s largest private medical aid group, said that as of Monday (18 May), it had reported 1,733 coronavirus cases across its schemes, having tested nearly 50,000 members. 824 of these cases have been reported in the Western Cape, while 576 cases have been reported in Gauteng.

Of these patients, 412 had to be admitted into hospital, 79 members had to be admitted to ICU and 39 members had to be put onto ventilators. Discovery said that a total of 37 members have passed away.

Discovery Health chief executive officer Ryan Noach, said that high risk members tend to be the elderly, and members living with chronic diseases.

He said that around 23% of total Discovery Health members that are infected with Covid-19 land up in hospital, and that around 4.5% of positive members end up in ICU. Those are people in severe respiratory distress. “We’ve had 59 of our members land up on ventilators.”

The proportion that method by age increases almost linearly in a steep trajectory, said Noach.

“From low proportions affected at the young age, to very high proportion of the people that get sick as octogenarians. In the 80 to 90 year old age group, 65% of those land up admitted to hospital.”

“There’s no doubt that age confers much higher risk for severe manifestations of Covid-19,” he said.

“It’s very sad that 35% of the discovery health members in the 80 to 90 year old age category have unfortunately died and succumbed to this disease,” said Noach.

He said that the good news here is that in productive working age groups – in the younger ages – the mortality rates are very, very low.

“This does allow us, I think, as a country, to come up with health policy and perhaps even economic and lockdown policy based on the very specific picture that this disease presents about who is most at risk – and hopefully can get productive people who are at less risk of mortality back into the economy at some point soon,” said Noach.

Read: Concern in South Africa as job losses pile up

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19,137 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa as deaths rise to 369