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Tuesday, 17 May 2022 22:06

SA records 5,096 new COVID-19 cases with a 20.9% positivity rate.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD),  reports 5,096 new COVID-19 cases that have been identified in South Africa, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 3 899 841.

The majority of new cases today are from Gauteng (36%) followed by KwaZulu-Natal (19%) . Western Cape accounted for 18%; Eastern Cape accounted for 11% and Free State accounted for 7%;. Mpumalanga, North West & Northern Cape each accounted for 3% respectively, and Limpopo accounted for 1% of today’s cases.

This increase represents a 20.9% positivity rate.

The proportion of positive new cases/total new tested today is (20.9%), and is higher than yesterday (16.8%). The 7-day average is (23.4%) today, and is lower than yesterday (23.7%).

Due to the ongoing audit exercise by the National Department of Health (NDoH), there may be a backlog of COVID-19 mortality cases reported. Today, the NDoH reports 41 deaths, and of these, 12 occurred in the past 24 – 48 hours. This brings the total fatalities to 100,812 to date.

Meanwhile North Korea stands on the brink of a Covid-19 catastrophe unless swift action is taken to provide vaccines and drug treatments, experts have said, as the number of people reported to have fallen ill rose to almost 1.5 million.

The isolated country reported another big rise in new cases of what it continues to refer to as "fever" on Tuesday, days after it admitted it had identified Covid-19 infections for the first time since the start of the global pandemic.

It recorded 269,510 additional cases and six more deaths, bringing the total number killed to 56 since late last month. About 1.48 million people have become ill with the virus since the first case was reported last Thursday and at least 663,910 people were in quarantine, according to official figures. The outbreak is almost certainly greater than the official tally, given a lack of tests and resources to monitor and treat the sick.

A significant Covid-19 outbreak could unleash a humanitarian crisis in North Korea, where the economy has been battered by the pandemic-enforced closure of its border with China – its main trading partner – natural disasters, and years of international sanctions imposed in response to ballistic missile tests.

The regime is not thought to have vaccinated any of its population and does not have access to antiviral drugs that have been used to treat Covid-19 in other countries. Its hospitals have few intensive-care resources to treat severe cases, and widespread malnourishment has made the population of 26 million more susceptible to serious illness.

"It looks really bad," said Owen Miller, a lecturer in Korean studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. "They are facing the rampant spread of Omicron without protection from vaccines, without much – if any – immunity in the population and without access to most of the drugs that have been used to treat Covid elsewhere."

Offers of outside help have so far been met with silence. Instead, there is concern that the country's leader, Kim Jong-un, may be willing to accept a large but "manageable" number of cases and deaths to avoid opening his country up to international scrutiny.

Since it reported its first cases last week, North Korea’s propaganda machine has portrayed the virus as an enemy that can be defeated through lockdowns, quarantine and greater vigilance. The state-run KCNA news agency has reported the delivery of unspecified drugs – "the elixir of life" – to pharmacies by army medical units, and public health campaigns calling for mask-wearing and social distancing.

But testing levels are far below what is needed to form an accurate picture of the outbreak and to quickly identify and isolate patients. Some observers speculated that authorities were deliberately underreporting cases to ease the pressure on Kim.

North Korea has tested just 64,200 people since the start of the pandemic’s start, according to the World Health Organization, compared with 172 million in the neighbouring South.

Wires in Seoul contributed reporting.