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Covid-19: SA warned of further spike during ease of lockdown measures

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As the country gets ready for a further easing of the lockdown, the number of Covid-19 cases is expected to increase.

Speaking at a health department briefing on Friday night, Prof Salim Abdool Karim, a leading clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist and government adviser, said SA’s Covid-19 infection rate doubled almost every two days before the lockdown was put into place.

But then under the lockdown, this “doubling rate” lessened to 15 days but  as the lockdown eased from level 5 to level 4, the “doubling rate” time got shorter.

Abdool Karim was speaking during a webinar by the department of health meant to update the public on heath interventions as the country enters level 3 of lockdown from June 1.

“In the three weeks from the time we had the first case [in SA] to the date of the lockdown, the epidemic was doubling every two days. Since we instituted the lockdown, the doubling time diminished from two days to 15 days.

“We come from a situation where the epidemic was doubling every two weeks. Since the easing of lockdown, May 1, the doubling time went to 12 days,” Abdool Karim said.

He said there was no doubt the cases would increase as SA entered the next phase of the lockdown.

“In essence, there is simply no room for complacency. We expect the case numbers to rise,” he said.

Abdool Karim said the number of tests has increased dramatically, but there were also fewer resources — particularly around Covid-19 sample extraction and testing kits — to cater for the demand. Tests were, therefore, being prioritised.

“We, as the country, together with the whole world, are trying to get hold of the same testing kits. Testing is prioritised to hospital patients, health care workers and outbreaks.

“If you look at the way we have been increasing our testing, it’s only a matter of time till we would reach a situation where we would struggle to retain the kits,” he said.