Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says that South Africa has reported fewer than expected coronavirus cases in its move to a level 1 lockdown, but cautions that the country could still face a second surge in cases.
Mkhize said that ‘chances are’ South Africa will likely follow other countries in experiencing a second wave. He said that other countries, who had contained their respective rates of infection, faced a second surge after opening up for travel.
He cited the US, which after a plateau in cases, saw a second wave which surpassed the first reported wave.
This led to a realisation for South Africa in that there is no reason that we will be spared from a second wave, Mkhize said.
“The conduct of the pandemic is not the same in all countries. One of the issues that we have been struggling with is ‘what made (South Africa) get the wave it actually did?’,” he said.
He said that earlier government predictions and models showed a much higher rate of expected cases and deaths for the country than what was experienced.
“We can’t quite explain why we didn’t get to those numbers. But what we have been able to see is that some of the very limited studies have indicated that what we have as positive cases reported is less than the numbers we have on the ground.”
He cited data from the Western Cape and Gauteng which shows a much higher antibody response than expected – as high as 40% in some communities – indicating that more South Africans could have been exposed to the coronavirus than first reported.
“While this is not an indication of the prevalence of infection within these communities, it does show that there are still things that we don’t understand,” Mkhize said.
He added that the 60% of people which did not have antibodies are still at risk. “So the issue of a second wave is something we cannot just rule out,” he said.
Mkhize’s comments come after he and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday.
“I was feeling abnormally exhausted and as the day progressed, I started losing appetite. My wife had a cough, was dizzy and extremely exhausted. Given her symptoms, the doctors advised that she must be admitted for observation and rehydration,” the health minister said.
“Our close contacts in the past week have been a few of our family members and some of my Health Ministry team. We have informed them and advised them to immediately isolate in their homes and be tested.”
The health minister said that he and his wife remain optimistic that they will fully recover from the virus.