1,845 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa, with deaths up to 18

Covid-19 coronavirus has claimed the lives of five more people in South Africa on Wednesday, as the number of infected climbed to 1,845 – up by 96 cases – the Department of Health said.

The number of cases in Gauteng moved to 782, followed by the Western Cape, with 495, and KZN, with 354 people infected.

Two of the latest victims are from Gauteng, with two others from the Free State, and one from KwaZulu-Natal. Their ages range from 52-years-old to 77-years-old.

The total number of tests conducted in the country so far is 63,776, the department said.

Globally, coronavirus cases have climbed to 1,454,825, with 83,607 deaths, and 309,818 recoveries.

The coronavirus outbreak is growing rapidly in the US, Japan, Germany, France and the UK, according to a weekly forecast by Imperial College London’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis.

But the group found the disease is stabilizing in Italy, Iran, South Korea and Indonesia, Bloomberg reported.

The MRC, which collaborates with agencies including the World Health Organisation, forecasts fatality rates for the week ahead based on analyses of 42 countries with active transmission.

In its forecast dated April 7, it predicts deaths exceeding 5,000 in the coming week in France, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US Fatalities of less than 100 are predicted for 14 countries, including Japan.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus likely will be around for at least two years, which means the measures being implemented to curb its spread may be in place for a while, an infectious diseases expert said, as reported by Bloomberg.

A vaccine likely won’t be available in large amounts for another 18-24 months, and countries need to do more frequent testing, Peter Collignon, a professor at the Australian National University Medical School, told Bloomberg News. Eradication of the virus is unrealistic, he said.

South Africa response exemplary

South Africa, together with the rest of the African continent, has handled the Covid-19 pandemic well, given the circumstances that the world finds itself under.

“I think we’ve handled it well. Much more proactively than other countries. I think Africa as a whole, what has been apparent is a significant amount of coordination among African countries early on,” said chief executive of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) Elizabeth Sidiropoulos.

Speaking to SAnews, Sidiropoulos said the African continent has taken lessons learnt from other countries in dealing with the pandemic that has grappled the world.

“I think both South Africa and Africa have taken the lessons learnt from other countries and responded with seriousness…which has not been the case in a number of other countries,” she said.

She said that as far back as February 2020, African Ministers representing health had come together to chart a way forward to address the pandemic that has killed many across the world. Recently African Union chairperson (AU) Cyril Ramaphosa convened a second teleconference meeting of the AU Bureau.

In responding to the pandemic, many countries had fallen victim to what Sidiropoulos refers to as “mixed messaging” and a lack of coordination.

“One of the most important things when dealing with pandemics is that there has to be a sense of public trust. Citizens have to trust that the government actually knows what it’s doing.  That has not been the case in other countries,” she said.

In her view, the response to the pandemic in some countries has been politicised.

Coronavirus timeline

South Africa’s first case of Covid-19 was reported on 5 March 2020, when a KwaZulu-Natal man came back home after travelling abroad.

In an ever-fluid environment, where the number of confirmed cases is a state of change, the country’s confirmed cases of the virus have surpassed the 1,700 mark.

Sidiropoulos has commended government’s efforts to curb the spread of the disease, including the implementation of a 21-day national lockdown that started at midnight on 26 March 2020.

Government coordination

Dean of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Nursing and Public Health, professor Mosa Moshabela, said that over the course of the lockdown, South Africa has seen better government coordination in the way that the various ministers have addressed regulations put in place to deal with the virus.

“On the health systems side, we have seen a lot of preparation. The minister of health will always emphasise the need to increase capacity for laboratory testing, wanting up to 36,000 tests a day.

“On top of that, add the relaxation of testing criteria to make sure that there is mass screening of the population.  You can see that the Department of Health, the Ministry is using the time to put things in place which we might not have had the time to do, had we not had the lockdown.”

Moshabela is of the view that citizens are taking the lockdown seriously.

“People are now beginning to say that if government has to respond like this, then maybe we need to do what we’re being asked to do,” he said.

Extended lockdown?

On whether government will extend the lockdown post 16 April, the professor said South Africa could become a victim of its success.

“My view is that when we look at how we are doing so far, the president has mentioned that they will look at the evidence of performance [during the lockdown].

“So far, in as much as there are challenges, including the fact that we are not testing everyone yet; we don’t really know the true figure of what the burden is. Based on the numbers it looks like we are doing well.

“The problem with doing well is that you are actually flattening the curve and when you flatten the curve the problem of Covid-19 is going to remain low for much longer.

“When you become a victim of your own success, it means that you have to be subjected to an extended lockdown because you are doing well at keeping the figures low,” he said.

However, the professor warned that citizens could suffer from “lockdown fatigue”.

“Our lockdown is so stringent that it is going to cause a lot of fatigue in the population and people might then defy it. Government has to think about what is the safe way to proceed without letting the foot off the gas, for lack of a better expression.”

Sidiropoulos had similar views, adding that how governments respond, is crucial to saving lives. Countries like Italy and Spain, she said had extended their lockdowns given the exponential growth in confirmed cases.

“They had no choice. My sense would be just by looking at the pandemic and how easily it spreads and the figures that we have, should not make us feel complacent about getting on top of this. It would probably be the wise route to extend it,” she said.

However, the extension of the lockdown would have consequences for the South African economy.

“The trade-off relates to the economic consequences which are already dire. You also don’t want a situation where you relax, and the virus spreads like wildfire,” she said.

Read: We will soon see if South Africa’s lockdown is working or not: Ramaphosa 

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1,845 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa, with deaths up to 18