Where is South Africa in the pandemic right now?
COVID-19 may have already infected 20 million people in South Africa, according to vaccinologist and member of the ministerial advisory committee, Prof Shabir Madhi.
In addition, it seems likely that the number of COVID-19 deaths have been underestimated. However, there have been relatively low hospitalisation and death rates. Nevertheless, Madhi says the country is not yet in the clear and it would be “premature” to return to normal.
Other African countries have also recorded COVID-19 death rates lower than expected. While the pandemic is not over for the continent, some medical researchers are trying to understand why this might be. Kerry Cullinan spoke to them about the interplay of age, herd immunity and data.
On Tuesday, the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases declared the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children a notifiable medical condition. This means healthcare workers are obliged to inform authorities when they make this diagnosis.
The syndrome is a hyper-inflammatory immune response in children and teenagers who have already contracted COVID-19. It is rare and potentially deadly. There have been numerous suspected cases in South Africa, but none have been fatal. Elna Schütz spoke to doctors about symptoms, detection and treatment.
Meanwhile, South Africa resumed its leg of the international Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trial. The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority and two local ethics committees gave their approval this week after the trial was restarted in the United Kingdom at the weekend.
The trial was paused almost a week ago after an independent data and. safety monitoring committee recommended a review of the case of an ill patient. Maverick Citizen spoke to participants, and a member of the oversight committee, on what the next steps are and what impact the pause might have on the trial.
A new ‘new normal’ begins
On Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would move to Level 1 of the lockdown on Monday 21 September. This means international borders can open in places, larger social gatherings can take place, the curfew has been shortened and liquor stores can open from Monday to Friday. More details will be announced in the next few days by the relevant ministers.
Ramaphosa celebrated the gradual but steady decline in new infections, hospitalisations and deaths, but warned that a “devastating” second wave is still possible. Greg Nicolson outlined the new rules and solicited reactions from opposition parties.
As Sasha Plating writes, the aviation industry is champing at the bit at the prospect of safely flying passengers once again. Airlines have submitted their operating procedures and COVID-19 protocols for approval. Meanwhile, the tourism industry is already at work for “a different summer season”.
New research exposes the impact of the pandemic
On Tuesday, the Gates Foundation released a report estimating that the pandemic had set the world back 20 years in its efforts to meet the United Nations’ development goals.
The 2020 Goalkeepers Report estimates that extreme poverty will increase by 7% and that vaccine coverage has dropped to levels last seen in the 1990s. It has also unequally affected women financially and limited their access to lifesaving medicine. As Ufrieda Ho writes, its findings have implications for South Africa too.
Gangs in South Africa and Kenya have used the lockdown as an opportunity to target children for recruitment. While lockdown initially limited recruitment, the gradual easing of restrictions left school-going children even more vulnerable. Recent research by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime compares the driving forces of this trend in both countries.