NEWS: Professor Salim Abdool Karim, a clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist has stated that if the current lockdown in South Africa is lifted early, it will undo all the progress that has been made. Karim had participated in a debate with national health minister Doctor Zweli Mkhize and other health professionals over the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Doctor Zweli Mkhize that South Africa’s has its first COVID-19 death of a patient that has had no underlying medical condition – a 57-year-old man who succumbed to the virus. South Africa has 2 272 confirmed coronavirus cases, up by 99 from the last figure 2 173. COVID-19 deaths in the country have risen to 27.
Watch Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s public Zoom engagement on Monday where the above document was presented by Professor Karim. The focus was on technical aspects relating to the country’s COVID-19 response.
“So, when you look at this curve, what you can see is that we were on a simple trajectory like every other country, increasing rapidly day by day. And then suddenly on the 26th of March, it turned and started going down again and as it went down, it reached a point somewhere around 60-70 cases a day and it sort of hovered around there. Not a single country that we’ve seen has this kind of turn.”
Scientists have warned against an abrupt and sudden end to the nationwide lockdown. They are also participating in the COVID-19.
Professor Karim says an abrupt end of the lockdown puts the country at risk of undoing all the progress that it has made so far.
“We know that if we end the lockdown and we end it abruptly, we may run the risk of undoing all of the effort and the benefit we’ve achieved because then we’ll be putting high risk and low risk people together, travelling in the same buses, taxis and trains. We have to do something about it. We have to avoid that situation and so, we need to think about and plan for a systematic easing of the lockdown, starting with transport hubs and then working our way down from the lowest risk to the highest risk.”
Karim sketched what a “systematic easing of the lockdown” and the next stages of the response would look like. First would be to find where clusters of cases are occurring.
“We need to go in there; we need to slow it down. We have got to be very careful so that every hotspot that emerges we can deal with. Next is medical care … we need to be ready for when those cases come in.”
This, he said involved having the field hospitals for the “triage”, where a decision can be made on whether a person is sick enough to go to hospital, so that hospitals are not overwhelmed. The next stage is getting ready for the challenge of bereavement, which people must be ready for both socially and psychologically.
The final stage of the response is “ongoing vigilance”, to stay one step ahead of the response.
“This is a tall order. We are not going to wait for people to pitch up at hospitals.”
Medical Research Council president Glenda Gray, a member of the advisory committee, said the Covid-19 epidemic would be with SA for months and possibly years to come.
Covid-19 has spread rapidly around the world since it emerged in China late in 2019, prompting a growing number of countries to order lockdowns to try to slow transmission of the highly contagious respiratory virus.
By Monday evening, more than 1.8-million cases and 116,000 deaths had been reported in 185 countries and regions, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.