You could be one of 12 million South Africans who have Covid-19

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You could be one of 12 million South Africans who have Covid-19

About 20% of citizens may be infected, but not know because they are asymptomatic, says health minister

Reporter
Health minister Zweli Mkhize has urged South Africans to remain vigilant by social distancing, wearing masks and santising as 'the threat of a resurgence that could be more devastating than the first wave of infections remains very real'.
Be warned Health minister Zweli Mkhize has urged South Africans to remain vigilant by social distancing, wearing masks and santising as 'the threat of a resurgence that could be more devastating than the first wave of infections remains very real'.
Image: 123RF/Alexander Raths

About 650,000 South Africans have tested positive for Covid-19, but the real number of citizens who have the virus could be as high as 12 million.

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With some showing no symptoms, they may be unaware they are infected. 

In a statement released on Monday night, health minister Zweli Mkhize said initial studies from convenience samples have shown seroprevalence of between 29% and 40%.

Seroprevalence refers to the presence of antibodies in a person’s blood stream.

“Interestingly, the revised models currently predict that there are probably about 12 million South Africans in total (detected and undetected) infected with coronavirus. This translates to about 20% of the population,” Mkhize said.

Covid-19 infections decline, but Prof Madhi warns the decline requires context

“We are currently embarking on a national seroprevalence study, which should take us closer to the actual seroprevalence of coronavirus antibodies and will give us a more accurate indication of our status of national immunity. Once the national study has been concluded we will communicate those results to the public,” Mkhize said.

Meanwhile, SA appears to be at the doorstep of level 1 lockdown..

Mkhize said an easing of lockdown restrictions is being considered, particularly regarding the curfew, sale of alcohol, religious gatherings and travel. This as the country continues to record fewer Covid-19 infections and fatalities.

“The number of detected cases countrywide continues to decline. Since August 22, we have reported under 3,000 cases a day. At the height of the epidemic during the month of July we would report anything between 10,000 and 15,000 cases a day.

A graph showing how SA is flattening the curve
beating covid-19 A graph showing how SA is flattening the curve
Image: Supplied / Health ministry

“Supporting this decline is also a demonstrable decline in persons under investigation, general ward admissions, ICU admissions, deaths and excess deaths. Consistency across these indicators reassures us that indeed we are in the midst of a trough in the pandemic,” said Mkhize.  

Hospitals are also facing less pressure.

“The percentage of beds currently occupied by Covid-19 patients nationally is under 10% for non-ICU beds and under 30% for ICU beds,” the health minister said.

“Having observed evidence that suggests a sustained decline in coronavirus transmission, as the department of health we have considered easing restrictions in various aspects for the national coronavirus command council (NCCC), which will make final recommendations to cabinet,” Mkhize added.

He warned, however, that if the public did not adhere to guidelines, such as social distancing, mask-wearing and regular sanitising, the country could see the number of infections rise again.

“The threat of a resurgence that could be more devastating than the first wave of infections remains very real,” said Mkhize.

President Cyril Ramaphosa chaired two key meetings on Tuesday. The first was a National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) meeting, attended by representatives of government, business and labour. This came after a number of meetings in the past few weeks to come up with ideas to rebuild the economy.

Ramaphosa also chaired the president’s co-ordinating council meeting, which includes ministers, premiers and leaders of the SA Local Government Association.

“The meeting is expected to deliberate on a report from the national coronavirus command council on the country’s response to the pandemic,” the presidency said.