South Africa has not yet reached the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the rate of infection has already quadrupled since the start of the month, with the confirmed number of cases rising to 138,134.
Eyewitness News has interrogated statistics from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases over a period of three weeks until 21 June.
The country’s top scientist and leading virologist in a trial vaccine being tested at Wits University professor Shabir Madhi is warning the daily statistics released by the Department of Health reflect only a tenth of the real number of infections.
“It’s going to be a dark winter, similar to Spain and Italy.”
Madhi who is leading the first COVID-19 vaccine trial in Africa has painted a bleak picture of what lies ahead for South Africa.
The statistics show almost half of the people who’ve died from COVID-19, passed away in the Western Cape in just the first three weeks of this month.
On 1 June, South Africa had around 34,000 confirmed cases.
Fast forward three weeks and the infections tripled to around 97,000 on 21 June.
With the virus spreading rapidly within communities, Madhi said the peak of this outbreak was yet to come.
“Cases might peak in three to four weeks, we are nowhere near the peak in the country yet. Only when we see a decrease in the rate of hospitalisation, then we say we’ve reached a peak.”
Madhi is warning the country will see multiple waves of the COVID-19 outbreak until 2022 and only responsible behaviour and a vaccine can change the long-term picture.
As of Sunday night, the COVID-19 death toll here on home soil was 2,456.
GAUTENG, A NEW CAUSE FOR CONCERN?
The number of COVID-19 patients being hospitalised in Gauteng is increasing rapidly with the number of infections in the province quadrupling in just the last three weeks.
For now, the Western Cape remains the epicentre of the outbreak in South Africa, it accounts for around half of the country’s confirmed coronavirus cases.
The second-largest number of patients are found in Gauteng followed by the Eastern Cape.
From around 17 June, Gauteng started overtaking the Western Cape when it comes to the number of daily new infections and the number of active cases.
Is this an indication that Gauteng could become the new epicentre of the outbreak?
Madhi said one needed to be cautious when interpreting the data comparing provinces: “The Western Cape changed strategy due to the huge backlog in tests, and Gauteng has sort of slightly changed also its testing strategy. The numbers being reported can sort of distort what is happening on the ground. It might be that the Western Cape is worse off than it is now.”
However, Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku is not ruling out the possibility that this province could become the new epicentre of the outbreak.
“It is possible that we are becoming the new epicentre. So, we are looking at the picture whereby the end of July, we will be closer to between 60,000 and 80,000 cases in Gauteng.”
On 1 June, around 200 Gauteng residents were hospitalised with the coronavirus and three weeks later, that number quadrupled to around 800 patients.
Turning to the Western Cape, at the beginning of this month nearly 1,000 people were hospitalised and in that same three-week period, the number increased by around 500.
While hospitals in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape are running out of beds, Madhi predicts Gauteng would see an additional 2,000 patients being hospitalised in just the next two weeks.