South Africa passes 1 million Covid-19 cases

South Africa has passed a bleak milestone in the Covid-19 pandemic, recording over 1 million confirmed, cumulative infections since the crisis first hit the country in March 2020.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced that the country has recorded 1,004,413 cases, with 9,502 new cases reported on Sunday (27 December).

Deaths in the country have increased by a further 214, taking the total to 26,735.

South Africa’s recovery rate has been encouraging, with the vast majority of those infected shedding the virus. There have been 844,874 recoveries to date. However, the number of active cases has been increasing rapidly during the country’s second wave of the virus, climbing from around 40,000 a couple of months ago to 132,804 as of 27 December.

“In many countries, this wave has been more severe the first one. Right now, we are in the middle of it. It is important for people to take this seriously. It started with the Eastern Cape then Western Cape, now KZN and Gauteng following suit,” Mkhize said.

“People are meeting in crowded places, having parties and forgetting their masks. These are things that worsen the situation.”

Mkhize said that things in the Eastern Cape – which led the second wave in the country – were now stabilising, and that the health department would continue monitoring the situation in the province.

“In the Eastern Cape, the issue of the number of patients has been huge. Private hospitals had filled up before the public hospitals. The testing was delayed and the shortage of staff needed to be attended to. Changes were made, this assisted to ease the situation,” he said.

Lockdown restrictions coming

The growing number of active cases in the country has led to calls for urgent intervention to take place – from Mkhize and a number of other sectors.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council, with tighter lockdown restrictions expected to be announced as a result.

While no official announcement has yet been made around when such restrictions will come into effect, or what will be addressed, several sources have told media that it will likely be a clamp down on gatherings and alcohol sales.

The president is expected to make an announcement in the coming days – with some reports pointing to as early as Tuesday.

Medical experts agree that further lockdown restrictions need to be put in place, but warn that the issue isn’t so much the restrictions as it is the enforcement of the rules already in place.

The South African Medical Association chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee told ENCA that enforcement is a major issue, with South Africans at large not adhering to the current regulations, keeping up social distancing protocols, or wearing masks.

“We can bring in the strictest regulations – if it’s not being enforced, it won’t help. At the moment, what’s extremely important is to bring in enforcement regulations,” she said.

This is particularly important with gatherings, and any situation where people are together in enclosed spaces. If the capacity of any room is over 50%, that is extremely dangerous, and people should try and remove themselves from this situation, Dr Coetzee said.

Dr Coetzee said that lockdown level 2 would be the recommended level to place the country at to better deal with the Covid-19 resurgence, but again stressed that better enforcement and every South African taking their own health and safety into consideration would be the key to successfully fighting the virus.

Read: Covid-19 warning to South African business in 2021

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South Africa passes 1 million Covid-19 cases