South Africa should prepare itself for a surge in coronavirus cases after days of widespread rioting and looting in the two most populous provinces, the World Health Organization’s Africa director has warned.
“We are concerned about the last three or so days of rioting in some parts of South Africa, it may exacerbate the situation of a very severe wave,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Africa director, said on a conference call on Thursday (15 July) as reported by Bloomberg.
“The government has to brace itself, and we in the WHO will be preparing, to see an increase in the cases again.”
The ongoing looting and riots in South Africa, which began on Friday, has led to severe disruptions in South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccination program, with vaccines all but halted in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.
While the country’s vaccination efforts prior to the unrest had been targeting 300,000 vaccines a day, the unrest has led to just over half of this number given on Wednesday (153,557).
Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) has also warned that the riots could have an impact on other medical treatments, including vital oxygen supplies.
“Many vaccination sites have had to close, slowing the fight against the pandemic. While the immediate loss of life is shocking, these disruptions will have a severe impact across the country to both lives and livelihoods,” it said in a statement on Thursday.
“The disorder is a major threat to our fight against the pandemic, both in the large and unsafe gatherings that are occurring and the disruption to access to healthcare including testing, the supplies of oxygen and medicines including the transport and administration of vaccines.
“Together with existing laws against criminality the state has the powers to take steps to stop the disorder in its tracks.”
On Wednesday South Africa reported 17,489 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,236,805.
Deaths have reached 65,595, while recoveries have climbed to 1,970,516, leaving the country with a balance of 200,694 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 4,688,779.
With further reporting by Bloomberg.