JOHANNESBURG (AP) – The current wave of COVID-19 cases in South Africa is expected to increase dramatically in the coming weeks and push hospitals in the country to the limit, the health minister said Sunday evening.
South Africa, a country of 57 million people, already has more than a third of reported cases for all 54 countries in Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people.
More than 4,300 people have been admitted to South Africa’s 138,000 confirmed cases, Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said in a statement. He warned that this number is expected to rise rapidly.
“We are seeing a rapid increase in the cumulative number of positive COVID-19 cases, indicating that we expected to peak in the … months of July and August,” Mkhize said in a statement.
“While each province is unfortunately expected to increase in numbers, areas of high economic activity are expected to experience an exponential rise,” said Mkhize, saying that the cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban will see the largest increases.
After two months of strict closure, South Africa began lifting restrictions to allow economic activity in early June, as the closure had dramatically increased unemployment and hunger, in a country considered the most unequal.
The current increase in infections comes from people who have moved back to the workplace. Therefore, it was inevitable that there would be cluster outbreaks as infections would flood communities to municipalities such as mines, factories, taxis and buses, ”Mkhize said.
Of the more than 4,300 people who have been hospitalized for COVID-19, 80% are generally wards and about 15% receive high-flow oxygen treatment. About 11% of the patients admitted have severe cases and are in intensive care and more than 58% are ventilated, Mkhize said. He said that the steroid dexamethasone is given to the most severely ill patients.
He said that South Africa has built several field hospitals, including in convention centers, a car factory, and by building large tent structures. The field hospitals have increased the hospital bed capacity for COVID-19 to 27,000, Mkhize said.
Most seriously ill people are the elderly and people with conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer malignancy and obesity, according to the Minister of Health.
He said the mortality rate for those hospitalized is about 1.8% to 2.1%
As the number of cases in South Africa is expected to rise rapidly, Mkhize urged everyone to take precautions.
“We are deeply concerned that the fatigue appears to have occurred and that South Africans are wary at a time when the spread of the infection is increasing,” Mkhize said.
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