COVID-19 decimates South Africa with 800 new deaths in 2 weeks

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COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is battering South Africa with about 800 new deaths in less than two weeks.

On June 8, 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a gloomy milestone for South Africa. In a statement, he told a grieving nation that 1080 South Africans had died from the disease. However, today, June 21, 2020, the Africa Center for Disease Control announced that 1877 people have been killed by COVID-19 in South Africa, an increase of about 800 new deaths in just 13 days.

To put it in clear perspective, it took South Africa 73 days, from March 27 when the first coronavirus patient died, until June 8, 2020, to reach 1000 deaths. But in just 13 days, between June 8, and June 21, there have been about 800 new coronavirus deaths in South Africa.

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The number of confirmed cases has also been rising dangerously. For instance, it took South Africa 95 days, from March 5, 2020, when Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize confirmed that the virus had spread to South Africa with the first known patient being a male citizen who tested positive upon his return from Italy, to June 8, to record about 50,000 cases. But since June 8, 2020, about 40,000 more people have contracted the deadly bug, for a total of over 92,000 cases. Over 50,000 cases have been closed, leaving the country with about 40,000 active cases.

South Africa now accounts for more than 23 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Africa and over 31 percent of all cases on the continent, with the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces reporting high number of cases and deaths daily.

Across Africa, COVID-19 is surging dangerously in Africa with nearly 100,000 new cases in the past ten days alone, according to the new data released on Saturday by the Africa Center for Disease Control.

The view from the roof of Hallmark House, a new hotel in Johannesburg’s Maboneng district. PHOTO: ADRIAAN LOUW
The view from the roof of Hallmark House, a new hotel in Johannesburg’s Maboneng district. PHOTO: ADRIAAN LOUW

On June 10, Africa CDC reported 203,899 total confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Africa. But today, June 21, 2020, it reported that 297,352 people in Africa have now contracted the potentially deadly bug as 9 a.m. East African Time.

While the number of people killed on the continent by COVID-19 stood at 5,530 on June 10, that number has now skyrocketed to 7,925 on June 21, 2020, or an increase of 2395 new deaths in Africa within roughly 10 days. The Africa CDC said a total 142,745 people have recovered from coronavirus on the continent.

COVID-19 has continued to spread in Africa since the virus was first detected on the continent in mid-February 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Africa region noted on June 11, 2020, that it took 98 days to reach 100 000 cases and only 18 days to move to 200 000 cases. Right now, it has taken just about ten days to increase to nearly 300,000 cases.

Ten out of 54 countries are still driving the rise in numbers, accounting for nearly 80% of all the cases. More than 70% of the deaths are taking place in only five countries: Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan.

More than half of the countries in the continent are experiencing COVID-19 community transmission. In many cases this is concentrated in capital cities, but cases are spreading into the provinces.

“For now Africa still only accounts for a small fraction of cases worldwide,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “But the pace of the spread is quickening. Swift and early action by African countries has helped to keep numbers low but constant vigilance is needed to stop COVID-19 from overwhelming health facilities.”

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa

Initially, many countries imposed lockdown and shutdown measures to slow the spread of the virus. In recent weeks, countries began relaxing lockdowns to resume some economic and social activities

“Stay-at-home orders and closing of markets and businesses have taken a heavy toll, particularly on the most vulnerable and marginalized communities,” Dr Moeti said on June 11. “So, the need to balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods is a key consideration in this response, particularly in Africa.”

Health experts have said that easing restrictions should be a controlled process and needs to be coupled with ensuring that widespread testing capacities and mechanisms are in place.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that COVID-19 rather than ending was accelerating dangerously around the world with the highest number of cases reported in a single day on Thursday.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Head of World Health Organization
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Head of World Health Organization

The WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sounded the red alert at his regular press briefing from Geneva on Friday, saying that more than 150,000 cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Thursday alone, the highest in a single day.

He said it was understandable people were “fed up” with staying home, but the data suggested that the coronavirus pandemic was accelerating and infecting more people.

He advised those who must go out to wear face masks and respect social distancing to reduce the spread of the respiratory disease.

Dr. Ghebreyesus said most of the new cases came from the Americas, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

He said: “The pandemic is accelerating. More than 150 thousand new cases of COVID-19 were reported to WHO yesterday – the most in a single day so far. Almost half of those cases were reported from the Americas, with large numbers also being reported from South Asia and the Middle East.

“The world is in a new and dangerous phase. Many people are understandably fed up with being at home. Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and economies.

“But the virus is still spreading fast, it’s still deadly, and most people are still susceptible. We call on all countries and all people to exercise extreme vigilance.

“Continue maintaining your distance from others. Stay home if you feel sick. Keep covering your nose and mouth when you cough. Wear a mask when appropriate. Keep cleaning your hands.

“We continue to call on all countries to focus on the basics: find, isolate, test and care for every case. Trace and quarantine every contact.

“As the pandemic gathers pace, it’s the most vulnerable who will suffer the most. All countries rich and poor have populations who are vulnerable to a higher risk of severe disease and death.”

He called for global solidarity, warning the deadly virus was likely to win if the world was divided and was unable to put politics aside.

Among the guests at the press briefing today was Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Grandi said the number of refugees in the world was increasing dramatically, and in the era of COVID-19 was leaving more people vulnerable.

He said although there have not been major outbreaks in refugees camps, there was still a possibility of major outbreaks, and vigilance should be maintained.

Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees attend the WHO press conference in Geneva on Friday, June 19, 2020.
Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees attend the WHO press conference in Geneva on Friday, June 19, 2020.

Tomorrow, Saturday, is World Refugee Day – an important moment to highlight the risks of COVID-19 for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The WHO DG said “refugees are particularly at risk of COVID-19 because they often have limited access to adequate shelter, water, nutrition, sanitation, and health services.”

“Over 80 per cent of the world’s refugees and nearly all the world’s internally displaced people are hosted in low- and middle-income countries. WHO is deeply concerned about the very real and present danger of widespread transmission of COVID-19 in refugee camps,” he said.

According to Dr. Ghebreyesus, beyond the health threat posed by the virus, COVID-19 is also exposing many refugees to even more severe hardship.

“A report published today by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement shows that about 70 percent of refugees surveyed in Turkey reported having lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic.

“We have a shared duty to do everything we can to prevent, detect and respond to transmission of COVID-19 among refugee populations.

“Public health measures that reduce transmission of COVID-19 require strict and sustained implementation. This is difficult to achieve in refugee camps, where the public health situation is weak,” he said.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Based in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, Simon leads a brilliant team of reporters, freelance journalists, analysts, researchers and contributors from around the world to run TODAY NEWS AFRICA as editor-in-chief. Simon Ateba's journalistic experience spans over 10 years and covers many beats, including business and investment, information technology, politics, diplomacy, human rights, science reporting and much more. Write him: simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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