Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced there are now 1,462 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in South Africa – a daily increase of 82 infections.
While it is a big daily increase compared to the previous day, it is still much lower than the infection rate witnessed before the national lockdown started.
Mkhize admitted that these numbers are much lower than anticipated. They expected the total number of confirmed cases to have reached between 4,000 and 5,000 by now.
While the number of COVID-19 cases is much lower than projected, Mkhize warned there is no room for complacency.
He said the lull in new coronavirus cases may be “the calm before the devastating storm”.
The minister went on to state they still don’t have a good understanding of infection rates in densely populated areas like townships.
He said the government will therefore embark on “wall to wall testing and finding all COVID-19 affected people in the country”.
He said this is needed to get a better understanding of where there are COVID-19 infections and break the cycle of transmission.
A look at the numbers
There are good reasons not to become complacent about the lower number of new infections in the country.
These include a lower number of tests which were conducted over the past week, and the fact that our test numbers are still much lower than in first-world countries.
To illustrate why the latest COVID-19 statistics may give a false sense of optimism, Media Hack’s managing partner Alastair Otter has produced several graphs to explain the situation.
The first two graphs compare the number of tests conducted and the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases.
This clearly illustrates that the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections track the number of tests conducted. The more tests done, the more infections recorded.
The next graph shows that South Africa has performed far fewer tests than other countries where the coronavirus pandemic is prevalent.
For more information, visit Media Hack’s Coronavirus in South Africa dashboard.
Number of tests vs Confirmed infections
Number of tests per million people
Many more tests planned
Mkhize said South Africa needs to conduct hundreds of thousands of coronavirus tests to fully understand the infection rate in the country.
He explained that coronavirus testing in South Africa has to date been reactive and restrictive, which means we may not have the full picture of the problem.
Internal COVID-19 transmissions have also started locally, and this has the potential to spread silently among poor people who do not have the means to be tested.
The minister said to address this issue, they are now targeting specific communities where people are showing mild symptoms.
This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa is entering a new phase in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the government is rolling out a screening, testing, tracing, and medical management programme on a huge scale.
“Around 10,000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns, and cities to screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms,” Ramaphosa said.
The geographical location of new coronavirus cases will also be monitored in real time to help to fight the pandemic.