“Never before in the history of our democracy has our country been confronted with such a severe situation,”
– Ramaphosa said in a dramatic speech, which he opened by declaring a national state of disaster.
As government rolls out drastic measures, South Africans begin to come to terms with life amid the COVID-19 pandemic (Schneider: 2020). By the end of his address, everything seemed to have changed.
COVID-19, the highly infectious disease caused by the virus, has so far killed almost 8 000 people, while more than 81 000 others have recovered. Across Africa, the number of registered infections has risen to 418 in 30 countries, while South Africa’s government has been one of several in the continent to impose travel restrictions on European countries and the United States. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. What you need to know: The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
- Shortness of breath
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately.
Emergency warning signs include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning. Now declared a pandemic, the outbreak of the new coronavirus that was first detected in China late last year has infected nearly 200 000 people in more than 150 countries.
In the days before Ramaphosa’s speech, South Africans had been aware of “corona” but did not seem too concerned about it as the country of some 59 million people had only registered just a few cases, all of which involved international travellers. But over the past 48 hours, a sense of insecurity has largely swept through South Africa as it is getting ready for the shutdown. Measures other countries had taken gradually over weeks, such as closing schools, imposing severe domestic and international travel restrictions and shutting entry points, South Africa took all at once. 35 of 53 land entry points have been closed, as have two out of eight seaports. By Wednesday morning, South Africa had 116 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. Despite the relatively low number, one of the main worries is what will happen once the virus reaches the crowded inner cities and townships.
“We must alert all South Africans that the internal transmission risk is now settling in,” Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said in a statement on Tuesday. “Once this infection starts spreading in taxis and buses, it will create a new dynamic.”
In South Africa, about 9 percent of the population is 60 years or older, while the situation is complicated by the country’s dual burden of HIV and tuberculosis.
“We have seven million people that are HIV-positive, and two million are not on treatment,” said Professor Goldstein Public, a health specialist and deputy director of the Wits Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science. “That is very, very worrying.” Due to the disparate societal and demographic structure of South Africa, there is growing uncertainty about what may happen if the coronavirus is not contained.
“If you hibernate like a bear, entertain yourself with indoor hobbies, and wait for summertime T-shirt weather, you will probably avoid the serious effects of COVID-19.”
― Steven Magee