The daily updated figures of infection rates, deaths and recoveries are enough to overwhelm anyone. However, knowing and understanding the bigger picture can help to ease your mind. Being in lockdown has a true purpose and it is well worth it!
The chairperson of the ministerial advisory group, Professor Salim Abdool Karim spoke to a national news outlet regarding the latest news on COVID-19 recently.
- As of 14 April, we have 27 deaths, 410 recoveries, 2415 cases and 87 002 tests conducted in South Africa.
- Our lockdown has been effective in reversing the curve, as we are now seeing less infections per day.
- We have been more successful in containing the outbreak in comparison with other countries.
- The amount of testing done are increasing. As we are seeing a flattened curve, more testing is done to rule out “false plateaus”.
- The virus seems to spread the most among high-density cities such as Cape Town and Johannesburg.
- It was feared that the virus would be rampant in our local communities however, we have curbed the infection rates very well.
- The virus will not be eradicated by the end of the lockdown. Infections will likely increase again once the lockdown has ended. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable.
Why the lockdown?
Since COVID-19 is going to spread once the lockdown is lifted, some may deem the extension pointless. However, there is a very real consequential benefit here: time. We have bought ourselves a month or two to prepare; get our systems and affairs in order; train our medical and essential staff.
The world is seeing overcrowded hospitals and sickly people who had no idea that this epidemic would hit right in the middle of their winters. We are now slowly moving into the colder months but we have the time needed to vaccinate against the flu and get the necessary preventative measures in place. This will greatly help minimise complications when infected with the coronavirus.
These months have also given us the time to equip and train new testing centres. According to Karim, the intent is to identify COVID-19 cases proactively, before they have to seek emergency care from a hospital. This is different practice in comparison with other countries, as most of the other countries only tested once the person needed to admit themselves to a hospital due to complications of the virus. Knowing how many people are infected gives hospitals time to prepare, schedule staff and order supplies.
For example, if a hospital knows that there are x-number of positive cases in mild to moderate states in a local area, they know that in the next week or two, they might have y-number of people that will need oxygen, medicines and beds. They can reschedule non-emergent surgeries, free up beds where possible and prepare isolated sections.
Actively seeking out COVID-19 cases will also help to determine the infection rate quicker, allowing experts to make a decision about whether or not the lockdown should be extended or not.
What will be done once the lockdown is lifted?
Karim stated that the government is looking to have a monthly “national surveillance day” whereby 5% of the population of randomly selected schools, institutions, government buildings and businesses will be tested. This amount may be increased, if deemed necessary.
Partial lockdown or further measurements such as a continued ban on social gatherings may be continued until spring time.
Vaccines are still a while away; however, it was reported in another national news article that China has approved two vaccine trials to be tested on humans.
Complications that can exacerbate the situation
- Persons with underlying auto-immune diseases such as HIV / AIDS are vulnerable to infection.
- Those who are un-vaccinated against the flu will have an increased risk of contracting the flu and the coronavirus at the same time. This could complicate things further as the flu and COVID-19 symptoms are similar. Read more: Why you should get your Flu vaccine
- The elderly and frail are vulnerable to further complications.
Calming down to a mild panic
Although the epidemic is very serious, 4 out of 5 patients experience a bit of fever, fatigue and a cough. Only 1 out of 15 patients need intensive care, and most people can recover at home in self-isolation.
The most common symptoms include
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
Keep your preventative measures
- Keep washing your hands – Read more: Any soap will do.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Stock up on medications for pain and fever; cough syrup.
- Clean your home regularly with a focus on surfaces where you prepare and eat meals or spend a lot of time.
- Sunlight is considered “nature’s disinfectant”. Hang your laundry in direct sunlight whenever possible.
- Identify and treat any illness that may cause complications – Read more: Allergies or Sinus infection?