South Africa information a million infections.
On Sunday, reported coronavirus infections in South Africa have exceeded one million since the pandemic began.
The country now has 1,004,413 cases and 26,735 deaths.
With one of the strictest initial lockdowns in the world, South Africa avoided the high death toll that many experts feared. However, as restrictions eased in the final quarter of the year, the death toll rose steadily and began to rise as the holiday season approached.
Many South Africans also traveled from cities to more rural provinces to celebrate the holidays. Officials saw a daily increase of more than 14,000 cases on Christmas Day and the two days before, although the number fell to 9,502 on Sunday.
Doctors and nurses described overwhelmed hospitals. “For many of the young doctors on the front lines, the moral trauma, if you will, of having to decide who lives and who dies is an incredibly traumatic experience,” said Dr. Ntobeko Ntusi, Chairman and Head of Medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital, a large public institution in Cape Town.
Dr. Ntusi said there have been some patients who were “28, 32 years old” with no other health issues who had extremely low oxygen levels due to Covid-19 pneumonia. However, due to the overwhelming demand for resources, we cannot offer them the treatment we know can save their lives.
Some medics urged the government to revert to stricter lockdown measures and restrict gatherings. “There is a big problem with adequate staff, nurses and doctors,” said Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the president of the South African Medical Association, told the public broadcaster SABC News on Sunday.
As the number of infections rose, President Cyril Ramaphosa held an emergency meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council and would table her proposals to the country’s cabinet, according to local news reports. Mr. Ramaphosa is expected to announce new measures soon.
In early December, South Africa tried to curb the spread of infection in hot spots by imposing a curfew, banning alcohol sales on weekends and closing beaches. Masks were made compulsory at all gatherings.
Scientists from the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal discovered a variant of the virus that makes up the vast majority of the samples tested in the current wave. It shares a change with a specific variant that was recently discovered in the UK and has resulted in travel bans. Scientists believe both new lines could be more easily transferable. So far there is no evidence that they are linked to any more severe illness.
Doctors noted an increased number of younger patients who had no vulnerabilities or comorbidities, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement announcing the discovery earlier this month. This could be related, at least in part, to large gatherings of young people, including student groups, that officials say may have increased the spread of the virus.
South Africa doesn’t have access to vaccines yet, but Mr Ramaphosa has said that the country will soon have enough vaccines for 10 percent of the population. They will come through an agreement with Covax, an international organization created to promote fair access to vaccines. In contrast to 92 low- and middle-income countries that receive support for their purchases, South Africa, as a higher-middle-income country, will fund its cans.
In other developments around the world:
Indonesia Reuters reports that international visitors will be banned from entry for two weeks beginning in the New Year to help curb the spread of new, potentially more contagious strains of the coronavirus, with one exception only for senior government officials. The country banned travelers from the UK a few days ago and tightened rules for those traveling from Europe and Australia, extending a previous tourism ban.
South Korea has discovered three cases of the variant, which were first discovered in the UK, officials said on Monday. All were members of a London-based family who arrived in the country on December 22, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. All three have been in isolation since testing positive on arrival. South Korea, grappling with a third wave of infections, is among the dozen of countries that have temporarily banned flights from the UK in response to the new variant. The country of around 50 million people reported 808 new cases on Monday, bringing the national total to 57,680 with 819 deaths.
Frontier workers in Sydney, AustraliaNew South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian said Monday, citing a growing coronavirus outbreak in the city’s northern suburbs, the New Year’s Eve fireworks will not be allowed to be seen from the port as planned. “We will find another opportunity later this year to see what you have done,” Ms. Berejiklian told the workers, of whom around 5,000 would have been invited. Other restrictions announced for December 31st include lowering the restriction on outdoor gatherings from 100 to 50 and banning people who live outside of the central business district from entry unless they have an event booking and entry permit . The city reported five locally transmitted cases on Monday, bringing the total number in the cluster to 126.