President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that there are now 1,326 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa, as of 30 March 2020 – on day four of the nationwide lockdown.
The president said that the virus has now claimed three lives.
The latest figures are up from 1,280 cases reported by the health department on Sunday night, where it also confirmed a second life due to the virus.
Addressing the nation on Monday evening, Ramaphosa said that the number of infected people continues to grow. The president implored South Africans to stay at home for the next 17 days.
“Leave your home only if you need to get food, or essential provisions. If you do have to go out, make sure you do everything you can not to get infected, or to infect someone else.”
Globally, there have been over 743,000 reported cases of infection, with 35,350 deaths. While over 157,000 people have recovered from the virus, the majority of cases (550,000) remain active, where 28,400 people remain in serious or critical condition.
The US has become the global epicentre of the virus outbreak, recording over 145,000 cases – however, Italy remains the country where the pandemic has proved most lethal, with a death count topping 10,000 people.
China, where the outbreak started, has managed to keep new infections down, recording around only 30 or so new infections each day.
It is China’s response to the virus that the South African government aims to mimic, with president Ramaphosa saying that the strict measures taken to lock down the province of Hubei proved successful in stopping the rapid spread of the disease.
“The containment of the disease in Wuhan City, in Hubei Province and in other places across China required a massive and extraordinary effort,” said Ramaphosa.
“It involved drastic restrictions on daily life and is having a severe impact on the Chinese economy. Other countries that have taken similar measures are having greater success in managing the spread of the disease than countries that have been slower to respond.”
Ramaphosa said it is now ‘abundantly clear’ that the most effective way for a society to contain the spread of the disease is for the population to remain at home and physically isolated from each other for at least several weeks.
While South Africa’s lockdown period has been set for 21 days, ending midnight on 16 April, analysts and health professionals have warned that the lockdown could be extended – all depending on how South Africans carry themselves during the shut period.
Netcare, South Africa’s largest healthcare provider, said it is fully supportive of the 21-day nationwide lockdown in order to ‘flatten the curve’ and lower the communal spread of Covid-19.
“However, our modelling suggests that, as has been experienced in other countries and depending on the effectiveness of the lockdown, it will require on-going evaluation to determine if the time period is sufficient to achieve its intended goals.”
If South Africans work together to heed the call by government to stay at home and limit movements and interaction with others, the country will be able to follow China’s example and ‘flatten the curve’.
However, if South Africans do not take the matter seriously and continue as business as usual, the containment measures will fail, and the country could face an unprecedented human catastrophe with hundreds of thousands infected.