In a matter of days, South Africans could be facing a national lockdown if the number of confirmed coronavirus infections continue to rise.
The concern is that there could be more community infections that have not been detected because of how testing for the virus is carried out. South Africa could be joining the likes of Italy and France if the measures outlined by President Cyril Ramaphosa don’t curb the rise in infections. On Friday Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that 202 South Africans were infected, a jump of 52 from the day before.
This is nearly a doubling of the previous day’s number and that is indicative of a growing outbreak,” said Professor Alex van den Heever, the chair of social security systems administration and management studies at Wits School of Governance. “The problem has been the bias in the testing process, in that they’ve been turning people away if they didn’t fit the criteria. I believe that is a serious error of judgement and we are essentially turning a blind eye to possible community-based infections.”
China, Van den Heever said, began their big lockdowns when they saw rapid escalations of between 400 and 500 new cases a day.
“And we could be, depending on our own numbers, be four days away from that,” said Van den Heever.
But if we were seeing community-based infections of 100 to 200 per day, we would probably have to escalate the prevention strategy.”
Bruce Mellado, professor of physics at Wits University and a senior scientist at iThemba LABS, and his team have been analysing big data to understand global and SA trends in the spread of the coronavirus.
“The bottom line is that the situation is very serious. The spread of the virus will continue for as long as people don’t pay attention to the recommendations of the government. The problem here is that if the population doesn’t respect the recommendations issued by the government, the virus will spread and become massive,” Mellado said.
“There’s no question about it. The numbers are very clear. And even in those countries that have some level of measures, the spread is very fast.