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Covid-19 cases spike in South Africa, an outlier on the continent

South Africa is among the top five countries in the world in terms of its murder rate, and in the top three for rape and child rape. On the African continent, it is also now the country worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Published: June 20, 2020, 10:36 am

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    Covid-19 cases continue to rise with around 2500 to 3000 new cases being reported every day. On Friday, the Health Ministry announced that 3825 new cases were recorded during the last 24 hours, bringing the number of confirmed cases in South Africa to 87 715, local news service IOL reported.

    The number of fatalities have also increased by 94 to 1 831. “Regrettably, we report a further 94 Covid-19 related deaths; 27 from Gauteng, seven from KwaZulu Natal, and 60 from the Western Cape,” the Ministry said in a statement.

    Western Cape premier, Alan Winde, promised his worst-hit province would try not to run up another testing backlog: “We will continue to track the situation to determine whether the NHLS can continue to process tests without developing a new backlog before reviewing our decision to implement a risk-adjusted testing strategy which focusses on providing testing to residents which need it most, including healthcare workers, those already in hospital, those over the age of 55, people in old-aged homes and people with comorbidities which would put them at additional risk.

    Pharmaceutical giant Aspen Pharmacare, the largest drug producer in Africa, will now “ramp up production” of dexamethasone, an Aspen senior executive told News24. It appears that the South African taxpayer will be made to pay for this once again.

    A dubious trial led by Oxford University this week found that a low-dose steroid could reduce mortality among ventilated patients. This week, Aspen’s shares spiked on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to a three-month high.

    “The Department of Health… has recommended that dexamethasone can be considered for use on patients on ventilators and on oxygen supply,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his latest address to the nation. “We believe that this will improve our management of the disease among those who are most severely affected.”

    “It is quite exciting,” said Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, “because licences to do this drug all over the world are owned by a South African company.”

    Aspen previously pioneered the very lucrative development and manufacture of generic antiretrovirals (ARV) in South Africa, made available to groups which represent more than 70 percent of HIV patients. Already, the provision of free HIV treatment is estimated to cost the country an additional US$ 66 million per year.

    But Covid-19 has not yet wrought the same destruction as the country’s citizens have since 1994: a South African is murdered every 27 minutes while a women is raped every minute.

    Thus, South Africa remains an outlier on the continent, with surging daily Covid-19 infections similar to the US rate, while Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria reflect the continent’s low percentage of cases relative to their populations, according to Bloomberg News and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

    South Africa has been struggling to manage the social spaces within and between high-density black communities using a lockdown approach despite having deployed the army on the streets. FreeWestMedia witnessed inhabitants in the black township Diepsloot near Johannesburg during lockdown, massing together and ignoring social-distancing rules and protective masks.

    The director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told the Financial Times on April 28, that the continent’s SARS-CoV-2 infection rate was relatively small because it had the largest percentage of youths in the world, a higher average temperature and relatively more people outdoors most of the time.

    According to data compiled by Bloomberg, Africa remains the best-performing region economically, similar to Eastern Europe. It boasts one of the global stock market’s best-performing industries: communications.

    Communications companies in sub-Saharan Africa lead all industries in Africa with a total return in income plus appreciation of 22 percent – more than twice the 9 percent earned by global health-care companies, currently the number one performing industry in the world.

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