South Africa shifts gear on coronavirus

Saturday April 25 2020

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visits the Covid-19 treatment facility in Johannesburg on April 24, 2020. PHOTO | JEROME DELAY | AFP


South Africa has shifted gears to stem the rising numbers of Covid-19 infections, currently the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.

And in following up to the already rolled out mass testing, President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced more measures that specifically expand treatment centres and also cushion the economy from total collapse.

The Health Department said it was increasing its capacity to accommodate the rising cases of Covid-19, and the iconic Soccer City, the stadium in Johannesburg that hosted the 2010 World Cup final, is now being converted into a field hospital.

The facility will join Nasrec Expo Centre, which is only a kilometre away to house at least 1,500 beds.

Economic stimulus

Pretoria is also responding to the devastating economic effects of Covid-19, and President Ramaphosa’s government said it was pumping R500 billion ($27 billion) to protect livelihoods and set the economy on the path of recovery.


Those measures followed warnings by the World Health Organisation that most countries were not catching the exact extent of the disease because they were not engaging in “robust testing.”

But as South Africa passed its 30 days since the first case was reported, it also reached a milestone in mass testing.

On one day alone of the mass testing on Tuesday, it had tested some 6,868 people. Overall, President Ramaphosa said some 133,774 people undergone Covid-19 testing in a fortnight.

The country seemed to have heeded the WHO’s call that the most effective ways of preventing infections and saving lives was by breaking the chain of transmissions through testing suspected groups.

“More than two million people have been screened countrywide and, of these, over 15,000 have been referred for testing,” said the president.

By Thursday, Africa had reported 26,493 cases with 1,239 deaths. The numbers are rising slowly but steadily. South Africa with 3,645, has the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa, followed closely by Egypt with 3,650 and Morocco 3,446.

Algeria has 2,910 and Cameroon with 1,163 have equally recorded huge numbers despite the latter stopping making public new infections last week.

As the fight against Covid-19 continues, government now looks to forge radical economic transformation advancing the economic position of women, youth and persons with disabilities.

President Ramaphosa has set his sights on making cities, towns, and rural areas vibrant centres of economic activity post-Covid-19.