South Africa might still see an exponential increase in Covid-19 once the lockdown is lifted, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chair of the ministerial advisory group on Covid-19, warned on Monday.
Karim added the lockdown has been effective in delaying transmissions and easing the burden on our healthcare facilities.
Speaking at a public engagement meeting with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, Karim explained what might happen after the lockdown.
“What we would hope for is that the number of new cases will steadily decline, and it will disappear and that’s the end of the story. I’m sorry to tell you, but that’s very unlikely,” Karim said.
What is more likely is that South Africa will see an exponential rise in infections.
By instituting the lockdown, government managed to stem community transmissions which would otherwise lead to Covid-19 infections spreading like ‘wildfire’ in the country.
“Government interventions has slowed the viral spread, the curve has been impacted and we have now gained time,” Karim said.
This delay is important because left unchecked, the Covid-19 burden on our health system could have otherwise been detrimental.
“[South Africa] has chosen to be proactive, we’ve chosen to go out there and do active case finding. We are not going to wait until they come to the hospital sick, we are going to go into the community and find them before they get to the hospital and only South Africa has done this,” Karim said.
About 55 million people are vulnerable to Covid-19 because there is no immunity or vaccine.
“As soon as the opportunity arises for this virus to spread, we are likely to see the exponential curve again,” Karim said.
“I have to tell you that as much as we have succeeded in stemming the flow of this virus in our communities and keeping community transmission at a reasonable low level – a success no one else has achieved – I have to tell you a difficult truth.
“Can South Africa escape the worst of this epidemic [and] this exponential spread avoidable? The answer, sadly, is that’s very unlikely… we cannot escape this epidemic,” Karim said.
As soon as the lockdown ends South Africa will once again be at high risk, Karim added.