Half of South Africans have probably had Covid-19: Discovery CEO

Discovery chief executive Adrian Gore says that South Africa’s high ‘excess death’ number indicates that a large number of South Africans have likely had Covid-19 already.

In an interview with 702, Gore said as much as 50% or more of South Africa’s population have already been infected by Covid-19.

He added that there have been approximately 120,000 excess natural deaths in South Africa during the period of the pandemic – most of which are almost certainly attributable to Covid-19.

“There is no ambiguity. If you look at the graphs of excess deaths, where it peaks up and comes down, it is absolutely around the first and second waves (seen in South Africa).

“It is incontrovertible that this is linked to Covid-19. If you extrapolate backwards from the mortality rate the number of people who have been infected, in our view, is probably over 50% of the country.

“This pandemic has had dramatic effects on people and the economy and we need to fight it in every way we can.”

Gore added that Discovery is hopeful that a third Covid-19 wave in the country takes longer and might be less impactful because of the country’s high infection rate.

However, he said that fears over another wave are legitimate which means that government’s three-phase Covid-19 plan is vital.

“If we can get phase 1 and phase 2 by the middle of the year – which is possible – then we could avert a deadly third wave,” he said.

In a letter sent to clients on Monday (15 February), Gore said that almost 5,000 Discovery Health administered scheme members, and 12 of the company’s own staff, had succumbed to Covid-19.

“In this context, we are often asked why we don’t just procure the vaccines ourselves for our DHMS members, and rapidly vaccinate them. There are two important constraints that make this narrow approach problematic,” he said.

“First, there is a global shortage of vaccines, and the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the vaccines will currently sell only to national governments, and not to any other entities.

“Second, there are specific risk factors that make some people more susceptible than others to severe illness and death should they contract Covid-19.”

This means that to be both fair and effective, the vaccination programme must be planned and implemented at a country level, according to a schedule that prioritises high-risk individuals first, and matches appropriate vaccines to at-risk groups according to clinical and scientific guidelines, Gore said.

Not following this process would mean low-risk people get vaccinated before the clinically vulnerable, resulting in unnecessary illness and death. This cannot and should not happen, he said.

Read: South Africa recovered 2 million jobs lost during lockdown – but there’s a catch

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Half of South Africans have probably had Covid-19: Discovery CEO