How the cold hand of Covid-19 added a black mark to 2020
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Durban - STARTING out on the usual note of dreams, plans, targeted achievements, 2020 began with promise, but amid the revelry and hope, a global health storm was brewing in the Far East as Chinese medical facilities admitted patients with “pneumonia-like” symptoms.
The first official acknowledgement of the virus that would turn the world on its head was on December 1, 2019, amid a number of questions which included its origins and how deadly it would be.
By the end of the month, Chinese authorities had reported the unknown virus to the World Health Organization (WHO) and it was reported to have originated from Wuhan, capital of the Hubei province.
In January, the virus was classified as “2019-n-Cov” and would later be known as Covid-19 as the virus began to spread with first cases reported in Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea.
In the ensuing months, the spread of the virus caught the world off guard with more than 100 countries reporting cases. In March, over 200 000 cases were reported worldwide.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed the first case for South Africa, a 38-year-old man from Hilton in KwaZulu-Natal, who had returned from a trip to Italy.
With cases on the rise, on March 23, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would go into what was initially supposed to be a 21-day national lockdown.
The curb was meant to give the country’s health sector time to get ready to adjust to meet the demand for upcoming months, and to slow the spread of the virus.
On March 27, what was feared came to pass as Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced the first fatalities of Covid-19 as two people succumbed to the virus. Both deaths were in the Western Cape.
Throughout the 21 days, evidence emerged that the country had seen a slowing of the spread of the virus, however, the lockdown would continue, albeit with fewer restrictions, easing from level 5 all the way to level 1 in the next few months.
The relaxing of the restrictions meant more cases were recorded and the hot spots for the virus shifted swiftly from one area to another.
Initial cases were reported in KwaZulu-Natal but then Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng emerged as hot spots for the virus as well.
A few days into December, Health Minister Dr Mkhize reported that the country was in its second wave of the virus as it recorded its highest number of daily cases breaching more than 10 000 cases recently.
Bearing the brunt of the second wave was a buckling health-care sector. Despite the initial lockdown having bought more time for the health sector, signs emerged that it might not be able to meet the demand as an estimated 38 000 health-care workers reportedly contracted the virus, according to President Ramaphosa.
In KZN, 7 451 health-care workers were reported to have contracted the virus. In most recent reports, it reflected a situation with health facilities reportedly in crisis.
Recently, public hospitals RK Khan in Chatsworth and Addington in central Durban reported 61 infections between the two facilities and fears abounded whether staff would be able to handle an increased workload as well as if the hospitals would be viable to treat patients.
Hospitals in the private sector have seen an influx of admissions and Medi-Clinic has suspended non-emergency surgery to open up capacity.
The Netcare hospital group have limited their surgical admissions and visitations to their facilities as a precaution after 140 staffers tested positive in May.