South Africa could face a massive shortage of hospital beds if even only a fraction of the population contract the COVID-19 coronavirus.
This is according to a report from Rapport, which said the country could have too few beds if the virus spreads along the same trajectory as in other countries.
According to the publication, experts said that South Africa would need to reduce the infection rate to only 10% of citizens if it was to stand a chance in fighting the virus.
This would mean that around 5.7 million South Africans get infected.
This is far less than the 60-70% figure which Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the country could be headed for.
Comparing to China
Rapport found that even if the conservative 10% figure was met, however, it could spell disaster for South Africa’s medical facilities.
In China, approximately 15% of coronavirus-infected people had to be hospitalised, while 5% needed critical care.
Rapport submitted that this figure may be lower with South Africa’s younger population, but if the rate of infection were to be similar, 855,000 beds would be required in the next six months.
Per month, that would come down to 142,500 beds, 47,500 of which would have to be dedicated to critical patients.
According to two studies in the last decade, South Africa’s hospitals would not be able to handle this number.
A study from the Institute for Race Relations showed there were only 116,400 beds across the country as of 2014, while research from the University of Cape Town in 2017 estimated 102,000 beds in 544 hospitals.
The effects could be even worse if the virus’s spread is concentrated in densely-populated areas.
240 confirmed cases
As of Saturday, there were 240 confirmed cases of the virus in South Africa, up by 38 from the previous day.
At least seven of South Africa’s nine provinces now have cases, with the majority being in the more densely-populated provinces of Gauteng, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal.
An expert from Wits University told The Star newspaper that South Africa would have to turn to a strict national lockdown if infections rose to between 100 and 200 per day.