Daily new Covid-19 cases drop, but recent civil unrest might cause new surge

After recent looting and arson in parts of South Africa partly derailed the government’s efforts in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, data on Friday showing a downward trend in new infections and an upward trend in vaccinations nationwide has brought some consolation.

Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said there had been a “significant” decrease in new Covid-19 cases in Gauteng, which has been the epicentre of the country’s third wave of the pandemic.

“In the last 24 hours, there were 14 858 new cases, which is a decrease from that of the day before at 16 240 new cases. The number of new cases has been on a downward trend,” Kubayi-Ngubane said during a weekly Covid-19 update.

South Africa had 163 885 active cases at the end of this week. At the same time last week, the country had more than 188 000 active cases. Gauteng had a drop of nearly 20 000 active cases in one week. 

On Thursday, the head of health in the Western Cape, Keith Cloete, noted that the province was starting to see a downward pattern in new infections.

The Western Cape’s vaccination sites were disrupted on Monday by violence in the taxi industry. Work at vaccination sites in both KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng was similarly disrupted during last week’s wave of looting and vandalism.

On Friday, Kubayi-Ngubane said social unrest had “added to the complexity of our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, the violent nature of the protests unsettled health care as a whole in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.”

Nearly 120 private pharmacies were destroyed in the province, causing a loss of about 47 500 vaccine doses and other medication, she said.

Kubayi-Ngubane expressed concern about a possible surge in new infections caused by the “many gatherings that we saw during the unrests in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.”

But despite disruptions and delays in these provinces, the nationwide vaccine rollout campaign gained momentum this week. 

The number of people vaccinated with either the single shot Johnson & Johnson or the double shot Pfizer drug surpassed six million people on Friday, bringing the total number of fully inoculated people in the country to more than 2.1-million.

According to Kubayi-Ngubane, the average daily vaccination rate is 250 000. 

“Though yesterday [Thursday] the number of vaccinations dropped, we still believe that we will reach our goal of vaccinating more than 300 000 people per day in the coming week.”

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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