South Africa, Durban – The number of Covid-19 cases is expected to spike even further come December 16, when factories and major industries close for the festive season and more people travel back home. This is according to Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who was the guest speaker at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium on Thursday.
Karim gave an overview of the country’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic thus far and elaborated more on what to expect in a world post-coronavirus.
In his speech, Karim said that when the country’s first Covid-19 case was confirmed in March, the government swung into action, declaring a state of disaster and later imposing a restrictive lockdown which effectively saw less movement of people and, in turn, slowed down the transmission of the virus which initially went from cases being doubled every two days to cases is doubling every 15 days.
Karim said that pushed back the country’s peak to July instead of earlier predictions and cases seen in other continents like Europe.
He said that when the government lowered the restrictions, it was effective to release “control”. However, although it was also an opportunity for communities to take their health into their own hands, that had not been the case.
“This meant that you have to control your own risk and become more careful and wear your mask. At level one, you have to take much more responsible because you are not being controlled. Instead, it went the opposite. As government eased restrictions, people eased their own restrictions and this was a miscalculation we found not only in South Africa but in other places around the world too,” he said.
Karim said the Eastern Cape was experiencing a second wave, worse than the first.
He said recent data has shown that more women were contracting Covid-19 in the second wave. However, more men were dying from Covid-19-related illness, which in itself was a phenomenon.
He said that in order for South Africa to consider herd immunity, at least 40 million people would have to be vaccinated, and that was a challenge.
Karim, said the “new normal” comprised adherence to protection measures especially distancing, masks, and hand hygiene, mitigating the risk of a resurgence, especially preventing super spreading through mass gatherings and controlling new viral entry from travel.
His presentation comes on the back of an announcement by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize that the country was experiencing a second wave.
Most new cases are from the Western Cape (30%) followed by the Eastern Cape (24%), KwaZulu-Natal (23%) and Gauteng (17%). The Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West each accounted for 1% of new cases while the Northern Cape accounted for less than 1%.