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COVID19: SA’s numbers are increasing

Hi there from Verationality, brought to you by explain.co.za ?

We know it’s a bit unusual to be popping into your WhatsApp on a Thursday, but with everything that’s going on, what’s really normal anymore? ?

We’re in a time of “infoload” – information overload, and the more news you consume about the virus, the more anxious you’re likely to feel. We get that. So we’re bringing you this special Covid-19 South Africa edition, 19 March 2020. 

We rounded up a few crucial topics to make sure you’re up to date on what you need to know. 

We also have been digging a bit deeper into the data around two key issues:

1. Just how fast is the virus spreading in South Africa? Check out our explainer video here:

2. How do we compare to other countries, particularly in the crucial area of the number of tests? Look at the graphic that we put together to explain it to you.

So let’s catch you up on what you really need to know.

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

It’s easy to get caught up in conspiracy theories about what’s REALLY happening, or hysteria about what authorities could have done better. However the fact is South Africa’s government has pulled together a pretty decent response, commenters agree. There has been solid working between various sections of government and other authorities and a real sense of unity and purpose. South Africa seems to rise to the occasion in crises. If only we could maintain that all the time…

OFFICIAL NUMBERS

These are SA’s official numbers, according to the NICD. 

4 832 tests have already been conducted nationwide, 

150 came out positive

4 682 came out negative

0 deaths reported

The majority of cases are in Gauteng, with 76, followed by the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal at 46 and 22, respectively. 

There have been no reported cases in Free State, Eastern Cape, North West and the Northern Cape.

We hope it stays that way. 

The numbers of new infections are increasing exponentially, which is a scary thought. We explain what exponential growth is in the video above so check it out. What is good to know however is that our death count is still at zero. We also know that the rate of infections starts to fall in real time once a country is in any kind of lockdown. The stats we are currently seeing are a window into the past: they essentially tell us who was infected several weeks ago, and have now shown symptoms and been tested. 

So, thanks to the incubation period, the confirmed cases differ with the realtime situation on the ground. This is also affected by our testing – which is very high compared to other African countries and India, but very low compared to countries who have managed to curb the crisis. Expect to see higher and higher numbers, before they peak and start to taper off. It’s difficult to hear that, we know, but it’s the reality. Keep in mind that things are potentially getting better even as they seem to be getting worse, thanks to the imposed state of disaster and higher testing. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa supported by Deputy President David Mabuza meet with Leaders of diverse communities of faith to discuss the national response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Image: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

NEW REGULATIONS

At a briefing earlier today, authorities announced new measures to slow the spread of the virus. 

You’ll remember an official state of disaster has been called in the country. Today the government gazetted new regulations to be implemented immediately. As an aside, this is why allowing for things like a state of disaster is necessary in a democracy, to speed up rapid responses. Can you imagine if these new regulations got caught up in parliament?? In this way, we can try to emulate the immediate action seen in more authoritarian states like China. Though perhaps we’ll hold off on the locking people in their apartments bit.

One of the biggest sticks in the new regulations? Those who don’t adhere to them can face jail time. 

Most of the regulations serve to restrain movement and activity and also the spread of misinformation at the time of crisis. 

Here are few of the main regulations announced today: 

1. Pubs, shebeens, taverns and restaurants are not allowed to sell alcohol after 6pm during the week. On weekends, no alcohol can be sold past 1 pm.

2. These establishments also cannot hold more than 50 people at a time.

3. No liquor licence approvals or permits for special events will be issued. 

4. People suspected of having the virus or who have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 cannot refuse subjecting themselves to medical examination, treatment, isolation and quarantine. 

What’s more, if you are positive for COVID-19 and you deliberately sneeze on someone, you could be charged with attempted murder or murder. 

5. Anyone who spreads fake news or misinformation relating to COVID-19 can be prosecuted. Thanks goodness. If only Facebook would get the memo. 

Meanwhile, the City Of Joburg, which is placed to see the most explosive growth of the virus given its density, has closed all recreational spaces run by the government and asked restaurants to close… can you picture Joburgers missing out on their Tashas? We’re not sure how restaurants are going to react to this one but it can only be a bad thing for business. However as Joburg Mayor Geoff Makhubo put it, “we need to take the pain now rather than later when it could be so much worse.”

You can watch the full briefing here

CHILDREN AND THE VIRUS

While you may imagine young children would be most at risk from the virus, studies have shown this isn’t the case. One study looking at more than 72,000 infected people in China showed that just 2 % were under the age of 19. They do, however, play a significant role in _transmitting_ the virus. (It sounds like the plot of a science fiction movie: a sophisticated plot by the youth to finally getting rid of those who messed up the earth for them.)

 Experts have warned that parents shouldn’t be too lax given the better chances faced by children. Some studies show that the symptoms in children may differ from the symptoms in adults and that children. Newborn infants are very likely to get affected by COVID-19, mainly due to their ‘untrained immune systems’. 

LESSONS FROM TODAY?

Be a good human, practice social distancing, obey the new laws set out under the Disaster Management Act and keep practising good hygiene habits. 

SARB Governor Lesetja Kganyago. Image: GCIS

Lastly, here’s some good news, to brighten up your night. 

1. The South African Reserve Bank has given us some financial relief. Today it cut the interest rate by 100 basis points to 5.25%. This means you will have more money to spend if you have loans, but please don’t use it to panic-buy and stockpile on toilet paper and sanitizers. You’re not helping anyone.  

2. China reported *zero*new cases of local transmission, the first time since the outbreak. This is a sign that things could get better and it comes as China’s infection rate and death rate slows. The tide could slowly be turning. 

And that’s it from your mid-week, COVID-19 edition of Verationality- simple news summaries for busy people – brought to you by explain.co.za.

Tell your friends and family subscribe to us via WhatsApp or Email on this link: www.explain.co.za/subscribe 

Till Sunday, stay safe. 

By Verashni Pillay and Aarti Bhana