About 12 million South Africans could have contracted Covid-19, many not even knowing it

The health ministry believes that almost 20% of the SA population may have had the coronavirus, with the majority not knowing it.
The health ministry believes that almost 20% of the SA population may have had the coronavirus, with the majority not knowing it.
Image: MICHELE SPATARI/AFP

While Covid-19 tests have confirmed that almost 651,000 South Africans have contracted the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, the health ministry says modelling indicates about 12 million people across the country could have actually contracted the virus.

With some showing no symptoms, they may have been unaware they had it.

In a statement released on Monday night, health minister Zweli Mkhize said initial seroprevalence studies from convenience samples have shown seroprevalence of between 29 and 40%.

Seroprevalence refers to the presence of antibodies in a subject's blood stream.

“Interestingly, the revised models currently predict that there are probably about 12 million South Africans in total (detected and undetected) infected with coronavirus — this translates to about 20% of the population,” Mkhize said.

“We are currently embarking on a national seroprevalence study which should take us closer to the actual seroprevalence of coronavirus antibodies and will give us a more accurate indication of our status of national immunity. Once the national study has been concluded we will communicate those results to the public,” Mkhize said.

Meanwhile, SA appears to be at the doorstep of level 1 of the lockdown.

Mkhize said they were considering easing lockdown restrictions, particularly regarding the curfew, sale of alcohol, religious gatherings and travel. This as the country continues to record fewer Covid-19 infections and fatalities.

“The number of detected cases countrywide continues to decline. Since August 22, we have reported under 3,000 cases a day — at the height of the epidemic during the month of July we would report anything between 10,000 and 15,000 cases a day.

“Supporting this decline is also a demonstrable decline in persons under investigation, general ward admissions, ICU admissions, deaths and excess deaths. Consistency across these indicators reassures us that indeed we are in the midst of a trough in the pandemic,” said Mkhize.  

Hospitals were also facing less pressure.

“The percentage of beds currently occupied by Covid-19 patients nationally is under 10% for non ICU beds and under 30% for ICU beds,” Mkhize said.

“Having observed evidence that suggests a sustained decline in coronavirus transmission, as the department of health we have considered easing restrictions in various aspects for the national coronavirus command council, which will make final recommendations to cabinet,” Mkhize added.

He warned however, that if the public did not adhere to guidelines such as social distancing, mask wearing and regular sanitising, the country could see the number of infections rise again.

“The threat of a resurgence that could be more devastating than the first wave of infections remains very real,” said Mkhize.

TimesLIVE


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