Sunday, 18 April 2021 09:16

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

SA among highest death rates in the world, says Madhi.

Health experts have warned that the Covid-19 virus is unlikely to leave South Africa any time soon given that it is an airborne pathogen.

While vaccines will reduce hospitalisations and deaths, they will not eliminate them, with the best result being that Covid-19 becomes a controlled disease, Wits vaccinology professor Shabir Madhi told the Sunday Times.

"Getting rid of the virus is not going to happen under any circumstances. The goal now is to stop severe disease and death. Nobody is totally protected, and ongoing circulation means people remain at risk of dying," he said.

"If we can get into the same space as seasonal influenza, which kills 11,000 South Africans every year, we should call it a success story."

He added that the 'official' death toll reported for South Africa was much lower than the actual number, and that 'conservative estimates' would place the country among the top 10 for the most Covid deaths per capita.

Professor Francois Venter of Wits University added that it was hard to predict when a third wave would hit the country, but he noted that most counties that have seen a classic first and second wave have seen a third.

South Africans, the experts said, will have to learn to live with the virus.

Director-general of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that the coronavirus pandemic "is a long way from over".

We have now seen seven consecutive weeks of increasing cases, and four weeks of increasing deaths. Last week was the fourth-highest number of cases in a single week so far.”

This is despite the fact that more than 780 million doses of vaccine have now been administered globally, he said.

"Make no mistake, vaccines are a vital and powerful tool. But they are not the only tool," the DG said.

"Physical distancing works. Masks work. Hand hygiene works. Ventilation works. Surveillance, testing, contact tracing, isolation, supportive quarantine and compassionate care – they all work to stop infections and save lives.

He said that confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures and their application are driving transmission and costing lives. "It takes a consistent, coordinated and comprehensive approach."

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Saturday evening reported 1,326 new infections, taking total positive cases to 1 565 680. He reported 48 new deaths, taking the total toll to 53,711.

The country recorded 1,372 new cases on Thursday, and 1,424 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday.