“South Africa has been able to flatten the curve and we will still have to do this for months, even years, until a vaccine is released.”
This is how the epidemiologist Prof. Salim Abdool Karim, chairman of the ministerial advisory committee, said during a virtual media conference on Friday night.
This is a few days before the country will move to level 3 of the seclusion period. About 8 million people in South Africa are expected to return to work next Monday when this level is set.
Karim explained that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 doubled every two days before the introduction of the nationwide isolation in March. Recently, the number of confirmed cases only doubled every two weeks, although it started doubling again.
At this stage, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in South Africa doubles every 12 days.
However, according to Karim, the picture looks different in the Western Cape, which is currently the epicenter of the virus in South Africa. The province’s number of cases doubled every 18 days before seclusion.
Karim explained that more and more tests are being done in the Western Cape, which means that more and more cases are being reported in the Western Cape. “It tells us that the Western Cape is experiencing a different situation than the rest of the country.”
According to Karim, the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the Western Cape to the rest of the country where it is currently spreading more slowly. That’s because the Western Cape recently experienced outbreaks that turned into hot spots.
However, other provinces are expected to experience outbreaks soon, just like the Western Cape. Karim predicts that the Eastern Cape might go next, he explained.
National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) chief executive Kamy Chetty said on Friday night that the health minister, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, has now demanded that patients in the Western Cape’s test samples be prioritized.
The test samples of health workers and those admitted to a hospital are already prioritized at this stage.
Chetty acknowledged that South Africa was experiencing a backlog of Covid-19 test specimens, leading to a delay in the results of tests.
According to Chetty, more and more Covid 19 tests are being conducted with more than 232 000 tests performed this month – about 39 000 tests were performed between Monday and Thursday this week.
However, the increasing number of test samples now exceeds laboratories’ capacity, Chetty explained.
According to Chetty, demand for the processing of test samples exceeded supply during the first week of May due to logistical reasons and a shortage of test devices. This led to the huge backlog in test results this month, he explained.