Baragwanath Hospital professor appeals to South Africans to stay at home as Covid-19 death toll rises

Downtown Johannesburg showing little traffic
South Africans are urged to stay home amid a second wave of coronavirus infections. (Keenan Constance/Unsplash)

With South Africa’s hospitals and clinics coming up against a second wave of Covid-19 infections, there are growing calls for people to stay at home as much as possible. The latest surge is linked to a more virulent form of the coronavirus.

Baragwanath Clinical department head Professor Lufuno Rudo Mathivha has appealed to citizens to avoid travel and movement if they can.

“Our vulnerable, we need to protect them, we need to protect you, South Africans, and we need to work together to achieve this,” she said in a Department of Health video released on social media.

“So you can help the healthcare workers by staying home, by wearing masks, by socially distancing, by washing your hands and only going out if it is essential to do so.”

Source: Department of Health

Rising death toll

The death toll has risen to 30,011 across South Africa and the fatality rate is climbing now at 2.7% of those infected.

The number of health care professionals succumbing to the pandemic is also rising, leading to staff shortages at some state-run hospitals. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced new lockdown restrictions on New Year’s Eve to curb the srpead of the virus. The coronavirus command council will review the efficacy of the regulations in the second week of 2021. Should the situation warrant, government has warned that it may tighten these rules.

But the president scotched rumours that there were plans to re-enter the strict level five lockdown as in March 2020. Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams confirmed that reports of a return to level 5 are false.

A new variant

Medical experts are growing more concerned. The  new Covid-19 variant, dubbed 501.V2, is believed to be the driver behind the surge in cases threatening to overwhelm health facilities.

Multiple Covid-19 variants have been reported globally. In South Africa and the United Kingdom, two different types of variant have emerged with the UK version first detected in September 2020, while in South Africa it was discovered in October 2020 and spread rapidly across the country.

Covid-19 stats 4 Jan 2021
Source: Department of Health – click to zoom.

While scientists are still analysing both, it is now apparent that they are more infectious, according to South African data. The 501.V2 variant has also spread outside the country to the UK as well, Austria, France and even the United States.

Scientists working with the UK government estimate that their variant is up to 70% more infectious. Chairperson of the  UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) Peter Horby told media that they are confident the new variant is “spreading faster than other virus variants”.

Latest deaths shock nation

In recent days, the increasing stories of those succumbing to the virus have shocked South Africans. In the Eastern Cape, Covid-19 wiped out an entire family, then hours later in another family, two sisters aged 19 and 27 died within 24 hours of each other.

Well-known cookbook author Dorah Sitole also passed away in the new year at the age of 67. A Cordon Bleu chef with a career spanning forty years, Sithole also developed beloved recipes. South Africa’s first black food writer, she was also the the former editor of True Love and Drum magazines.

Dorah Sitole. Source: Facebook

Health experts continue to urge South Africans to practice non-pharmaceutical interventions, like mask-wearing, handwashing and social-distancing, to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.—Health-e News


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