Updated: Sep 7, 2020
The world as we know it has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. As we welcomed the New Year in, who would ever have guessed what lay ahead! COVID-19 was first reported in China at the end of December last year (which is where the “19” in its name comes from – 2019). Since then, over 27.31 million people worldwide have been reported as having had COVID. Of these more than 19.38 million have already recovered, about 7.03 million are currently infected and, sadly, about 893,463 people have died so far.
It is now September – almost 7 months since our first case in South Africa – and here we find ourselves in the midst of the COVID-19 storm in South Africa with thousands of new cases reported every day. We hear that there have been over 638,517 cases of COVID-19 to date and that about 14,889 people have died so far. We know that the infections are spreading rapidly now and it is likely that we all know somebody who has had COVID or is currently at home (or in hospital) with it. We may even have had COVID ourselves.
It seems to be ‘everywhere’. Little wonder that people are feeling anxious and concerned. BUT… it is not all bad news.
We mustn’t get confused when it is said that there have been over 638,517 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. This is the total of all the cases that have been reported since 5 March. It is not the number of people who are sick/infected at present. Many of these people have already recovered and no longer have the disease. According to our latest official statistics, more people have recovered from the disease than are currently infected (‘active cases’). Almost 563,891 people have recovered so far, and about 59,737 people are
currently ‘active cases’. This translates into a recovery rate of 88.6%. This is positive news.
Our biggest concern has been about saving lives. We know from the experience in other countries that many, many people have lost their lives due to the coronavirus. The case fatality rate is the number of people that have died, divided by the total number of confirmed (known) cases of COVID-19.
The case fatality rate varies across the world and very much depends on the testing strategy of a country. (The more people you test, the more cases you find. When you divide deaths by a higher number of cases you get a lower-case fatality rate.)
Some countries have case fatality rates of over 10%. The average worldwide is 4.0%. South Africa currently has a case fatality rate of 2.3%. Which means that we are not seeing the high number of deaths that we would have expected and that other countries have experienced. This can, of course, change going forward but for now we are comforted by this positive news.
BETTER TREATMENT OPTIONS NOW
With our pandemic starting a little later than many other countries, together with the time we bought with Lockdown 5, we have learnt a lot from other countries’ experience. We have more information about COVID than was available earlier this year and it seems to be working for us. We now have a better idea of what treatments work and don’t work, and we
have learnt that dexamethasone is a useful medicine to help reduce the severity of the disease in seriously ill patients. We also know that ventilators are not always the best or first option and we should rather use oxygen (especially high flow nasal oxygen) instead whenever possible.There is still much to be learnt but we are in a better place treatment wise
now than before. And it will only get better, too, as the results of numerous studies become available.
THE PEAK WON'T LAST FOREVER
We know that, as a country, we are in the peak of our COVID epidemic at present. We always knew it was coming and it is here now. We also know that the Western Cape was the first Province to start surging and that this was to be followed by other provinces. Eastern Cape was next and now Gauteng and KZN are in the midst of the storm.
The good news is that we see that the Western Cape seems to be passing its peak and the number of infections is slowing down. Gauteng may be beginning to show the first signs of slowing too, although we cannot be sure. KZN is in the eye of their storm right now and other provinces are starting to take off too.
The good news is that the peak won’t continue indefinitely. We do expect to continue Having lots of infections for the next 6 weeks or so, and then it should start slowing down. The experts say that October should be better and that there should be very few infections by December. Hopefully, by that time, there might be good news about a vaccine.