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Catching you up on Covid-19 in SA

Tuned out of the news lately? We don’t blame you. But you probably still want to be caught up with any major new developments in the great Covid fight. If you’re just back from your end of year holiday, and wondering what’s happened, we’ve got you.

So, it’s 2021 and Covid-19 is still with us. Well, of course it is. There goes any hope that bad news would be confined to 2020. The world is still kind of scary at the moment: from a tearful president to nationwide candle lighting for the lives lost to Covid-19, here’s what’s been happening in South Africa.

New infections

The number of infections in South Africa is increasing daily. It started off with some superspreader events that caused a sudden surge in cases, towards the end of 2020. Remember the Rage Festival in Ballito that has most of us raging? Then came the festive season, which saw an expected increase in cases. 

From the start of December, the daily infections gradually started to increase, from 2 295 at the beginning to 7 822 by mid-December. On Christmas day, South Africa reported 14 796 new cases. Then came new years day, just a week later and 16 726 new cases were reported. The daily death toll is also increasing. This week, South Africa officially passed 30 000 deaths in total. 

Second peak

The increase in cases means the second peak is fast approaching. As with the first wave, the Western Cape is expected to be hit first. The Head of the Western Cape’s health department Dr Keith Cloete said the province can expect to see the peak around the 7 January. As we explained before, the peak is the highest number of NEW infections the epidemic reaches in a single day. During the first peak, the pinnacle around July saw over 13 000 daily new cases. In the coming days and weeks, the daily increase will grow before this rate starts to slow, infectious disease specialist Dr Jeremy Nel told explain. Right now, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng have the second and third highest number of active cases, but it is still not known when these provinces will reach its peak. 

New restrictions

The surge in cases was expected as the festive season began but it was the sheer carelessness of holidaying crowds that prompted an unprecedented address from President Cyril Ramaphosa a few days before New Years Eve. Tearing up before the nation, he begged for people to stay safe, putting the country into adjusted level three lockdown from level one. What does that mean?

To recap the main protocols: 

  • Adjusted level 3 lockdown came into effect on 29 December.
  • Alcohol sales are completely prohibited.
  • Restaurants and other establishments must close doors at 20:00. 
  • Gatherings at cinemas, theatres, gyms, libraries etc. is limited to 50 or no more than 100.
  • Beaches, dams, lakes, parks and public swimming pools are all closed to the public.
  • Public consumption of alcohol is not allowed.
  • A curfew from 21:00 to 6:00 kicked in.
  • Masks are mandatory. If you don’t wear one, you could face a fine, prosecution and even jail time. 

The adjusted level three lockdown will stay in place until 15 January, President Cyril Ramaphosa said. He also declared a few more areas as hotspots.

To read more about the restrictions and hotspots, go here

Preparedness

This one is a biggie. The experts say the second wave is usually worse than the first wave and with the new variant shown to be more transmissible, everything has just become more complicated. There are warnings from some quarters that hospitals and fatigued health workers alike are struggling to cope. 

The SA Medical Association (Sama) said the country is less prepared than it was for the first wave. It said little effort has been made to boost staff at hospitals after many of health workers succumbed to the coronavirus, according to the Sunday Times. Other reports say despite the warning of a lack of preparedness of our hospitals, the government failed to intervene.

There are some exceptions though. Hospitals in Kwa-Zulu Natal say they have enough beds and if there is a need for more, they will contact lodges and hotels, News24 reported. Then there’s the hope sprung by Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital which said for the first time in history, it did not have a single trauma rescue casualty on New Year’s day, thanks to the curfew and alcohol ban.

Vaccines

There has been some mixed messaging around South Africa’s access to, and rolling out of vaccines. First, we heard Ramaphosa say that a vaccine will be available for 10% of the population by “early this year.” On Sunday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said he hopes to get this going as soon as February. But there’s the cost factor slowing us down, the inequitable access to vaccines for developing vs developed countries and the fact that South Africa delayed getting into an agreement with pharmaceutical companies. You may have also heard the term Covax – read our explainer on it here. 

Until the vaccine actually becomes a reality for us, we need to take responsibility. So, keep those masks up, keep the sanitiser handy, limit your socialising and isolate or get tested if you show any symptoms. Only we can save ourselves at this point. 

Stay safe South Africa.