Government said that the lockdown had bought South Africa time to flatten the COVID-19 curve but it warned that the country’s big cities were at risk for major outbreaks and the elderly may need to self-isolate until September.
In its latest update on the pandemic on Monday night, government confirmed that another two people had succumbed to the coronavirus, bringing the known death toll to at least 27 here on home soil.
At least 2,272 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the country.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, an infectious diseases specialist, is advising government on the crisis.
He said that it was vital that South Africa intervene to stop community transmission.
“If community transmission is low, cases decline. If community transmission increases, then cases will increase and the exponential curve will start again and community transmission is the central feature of what we’re trying to control.”
He said that government was watching major cities very closely.
“Our three biggest concerns are in the three high-density hubs where we have a lot of infection and where the potential for spread is high. It’s high because we have so many people with the virus and we have so many communities where it could be seeded and where it can spread, so our big concerns are around the greater Johannesburg area, the greater Cape Town area and the greater eThekwini area.”
He also warned there may be a partial lockdown until September for the elderly and also those with serious respiratory problems.
Karim said that despite the early success in slowing the spread, the country was facing an uphill battle.
“As much as we have succeeded in stemming the flow of this virus in our communities, in keeping community transmission at a reasonably low level and that is a success that no one else has achieved, I have to tell you a difficult truth – can South Africa escape the worst of this epidemic? Is the exponential spread avoidable? The answer, sadly, is that that is very, very unlikely.”
But, he said that because government had acted fast, we’d gained some time.
“So what we have seen is a slight difference in our curve and the government’s interventions have slowed the viral spread, the curve has been impacted and we have no gained time.”