COVID-19 expected to be with South Africa for some time
According to South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) President and Member of the advisory Committee on COVID-19, Dr Glenda Gray, the epidemic might be with South Africa for months or even years to come. She said this is a long-term march, not a sprint.
The Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize also alluded to this fact on 13 April 2020 saying it could take years to overcome.
The South African COVID-19 trajectory is unique, because it did not see an exponential increase in cases after the first 100 cases. The most likely explanation given for this is that the Country had seen three epidemics: one among travellers, the second among their contacts and the third via community transmission.
By the time the lockdown started on 26 March 2020 the first two epidemics had largely burnt out and community transmission was not occurring at a significant level according to Dr Salim Abdool Karim, the co-director of the Centre for Aids Research in Africa at the University of Kwazulu-Natal and the co-chair of the minister of Health’s 45 –member advisory committee on COVID-19.
Karim provided information on what a “systematic easing of the lockdown” and the next stages of the response would look like. The first step would be to find out where clusters of cases are occurring and then get there and slow it down. The idea is to be able to handle every hot spot that emerge. Being able to provide medical care for these cases when they are identified is the next step.
In this regard field hospitals are to be the “triage” centres where the decisions will be made on whether a person is ill enough to be taken and admitted to hospital.
“Ongoing Vigilance” is said to be the final stage of the response which will have several aspects with 5% of emergency health workers being tested once a month, with an added national surveillance day once a month in which a specific sample of schools, prisons, mines and big companies will be tested as well.
Dr Gray indicated that identifying hotspots is extremely important. Vigilance must be continued and it must be ensured that each outbreak is investigated. The need for healthcare workers to be protected on both a physical and psychological level is also of extreme importance. In this regard healthcare workers must have adequate Personal Protective Equipment, training and support in these difficult times.