Cape Town - On March 5, 2020, the Department of Health released a statement that was going to change our way of living and give us a “new normal”.
“This morning, Thursday March 5, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed that a suspected case of Covid-19 has been tested positive,” said former health minister Zweli Mkhize.
The patient was a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife. They were part of a group of 10 people who arrived back in South Africa on March 1, 2020.
The patient had symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough.
After the first case was reported, paranoia, long queues and empty shelves were common.
In two years, we have went through several variants of concern, mainly the Alpha (B.1.1.7), which was first identified in the UK, the Beta variant (B.1.351), first identified in South Africa and the Delta variant (B.1.617.2), which was first identified in India. We are currently dealing with the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529).
Variants occur because viruses make carbon copies of themselves to reproduce. However, errors may creep in, causing the genetic blueprint to change, resulting in a new version of the virus.
Now, we have a reported 3 681 437 laboratory-confirmed cases in South Africa and 99 517 related deaths.
For the past year, South Africans have also been urged to vaccinate. In February 2021, the country started phase 1 of the vaccine roll-out programme.
This phase represented the Sisonke Trial in which Johnson & Johnson donated 500 000 of its single-dose vaccines to accelerate vaccination of front line health-care workers.
Phase 2 of the roll-out took place in May that year followed by phase 3 that came late 2021.