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SA cannot escape flood of infections, warns Prof Karim

Dr Salim Abdool Karim has received praise for his presentation on the country’s Covid-19 response. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Dr Salim Abdool Karim has received praise for his presentation on the country’s Covid-19 response. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 15, 2020


Although many South Africans would like to see the Covid-19 coronavirus disappear, health experts have continued to warn that the country was unlikely to escape the flood of massive infections.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim is an expert epidemiologist and one of several advisors to Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize. He warned that infections would probably rise after the lockdown was lifted. He said this was a possibility because there is no vaccine to protect everyone else who has not been infected.

"What we hope for is that the number of new cases will steadily decline and the new cases will decrease. But I am sorry to tell you that that is very unlikely. The more likely scenario, what we have been able to do is stem community transmissions, but once we end the lockdown, as we are going to have to end it at some point, 55 million people will be vulnerable to this virus and that is why we are likely to see the exponential rise in the curve again," Karim said.

He had also noted that the country's case was unique in that there had been a plateau in the line of infections, which was unexpected and differed from other countries. This was largely attributed to the lockdown and the tracing and testing being conducted by the government.

"As much as we succeeded in stemming the spread of the virus in our communities, and keeping community transmissions at a low level, the threat is unavoidable. We cannot escape this epidemic. Unless we have a mojo that is not present at any place in the world. We have no immunity against this virus, as soon as we end the lockdown," he said

Karim said another reason why the virus was likely to spread is because of how the viruses behave.

"If infected, in the first stage you will not transmit, and then 4 -7 days before symptoms appear you can spread the virus. This virus can spread really fast, a person can infect two to three other people. If 10 00 have it within a few days that number can be 30,000 and then 100 000. The virus grows very rapidly," Karim said.

He said the measures put in place by the government, which include activity screening people was good as it allowed for preparation.

"The curb has been impacted and we have gained time. If we allow it to grow unchecked we will see what has happened in New York. Every other country has had to wait. We have chosen a different route, we have chosen to be proactive and test and go looking for it. Because we have had time, we have over 28 000 people going house to house screening for new cases. This time gives us a new opportunity to find innovative ways of testing," Karim said.


* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak visit IOL's  #Coronavirus trend page

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the government's 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or go to  SA Coronavirus for more information.

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