/ 23 July 2021

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

Looting Ethekwini
The 2021 July riots were the most widespread, coordinated, and visible instance of looting in South Africa.

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.”