100 days into lockdown, and Covid-19 will soar - this is what you can expect

04 July 2020 - 07:11 By Nonkululeko Njilo
The Cape Town International Convention Centre's Hall 4 is one of the exhibition halls the was turned into a Covid-19 field hospital.
The Cape Town International Convention Centre's Hall 4 is one of the exhibition halls the was turned into a Covid-19 field hospital.
Image: Esa Alexander

As of this morning, on day 100 of SA's lockdown, there were 177,124 cases of Covid-19 recorded across the country, and 2,952 of those have resulted in deaths.

This is a dramatic rise in case numbers, and an indication that the 100-day milestone might have landed at around the same time the peak truly begins.

It was fear about the spread of the highly infectious respiratory illness that prompted the lockdown, with government aiming to "flatten the curve" and buy time for the health-care system to prepare. As cases spike, and hospitals quickly exceed their capacity, the need for this flattening is becoming increasingly clear.

Had the curve not been flattened, the health-care system would have been completely overwhelmed, and it is likely the number of fatalities would be significantly higher.

Beyond this, the 100 days of lockdown have thrown SA into turmoil. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs, and many are going hungry. An already weakened economy has been further shattered as industries were forced to close, and some businesses are still not allowed to open their doors. Those who can reopen are having to do so under strict conditions.

The past 100 days have also caused a rift between South Africans and their government, with fights over tobacco and alcohol bans and the reopening of personal care businesses playing out in court.

Citizens have been angry about not being allowed to exercise when they wanted to. They have also fumed about not being allowed to use beaches though the promenades next to them are open to the public.

The taxi industry recently openly defied lockdown rules around load capacity.

Schools have been closed, then reopened, then had the new opening dates delayed. There is still uncertainty around the operating of creches and other early childhood development centres.

The early goodwill, it seems, has been largely eroded. .

All this in just 100 days.

One day after the national lockdown kicked in, the country recorded its first two fatalities related to Covid-19, namely a 48-year-old woman and a 28-year-old woman at a private hospital in the Western Cape. 

At the time, the concept of hospitals being overwhelmed with patients was hard to grasp.

By yesterday morning walks, scheduled meals and long daily naps were the new normal for hundreds of Covid-19 patients admitted to one of the biggest field hospitals in Gauteng.

Inside a Covid-19 treatment ward at the Nasrec exhibition centre near Soweto. The facility was established by the Gauteng government to deal with the anticipated increase in numbers over the coming weeks.
Inside a Covid-19 treatment ward at the Nasrec exhibition centre near Soweto. The facility was established by the Gauteng government to deal with the anticipated increase in numbers over the coming weeks.
Image: Nonkuleleko Njilo/TimesLIVE

The Nasrec quarantine and isolation centre is situated south of Johannesburg with an estimated capacity of 570 beds. 

Walking into the heavily secured facility, one is greeted by the strong smell of sanitisers.

The media were on Friday allowed inside the facility for the first time since its inception two months ago. 

The beds are located in hall-like area. Each bed is placed in a cubicle which ensures all patients a modicum of privacy. Nurses are seen walking around the area, checking on patients seated on their beds, waiting their turn for attendance. 

Among the patients is Lebogang Ntshoe of Soweto. He was admitted to the centre after testing positive for Covid-19. He said he had flu-like symptoms and was struggling to breathe. 

Ntshoe said he had concerns about the condition of the facility when he was first admitted, but has overcome his fear due to the care he has been given at the centre. 

“The environment has done a lot for me. I am now better and breathing properly.

“When you’re sent into a government facility, you are more worried about getting better than the facility itself, but it’s not bad,” he said.

“The place is clean. The food is good. The nurses are very friendly. I think it contributes to an individual getting better,” he said. 

Another patient, Segopodise Seane, 41, also praised the staff. She was due to be discharged on Saturday, which would mark her 14th day at the centre. 

Seane said she received a warm welcome at the centre after being stigmatised at her residential complex. 

“I received a warm welcome. I was given a bed which was comfortable. When I needed help, the nurses helped. We were given food at the right time,” she said. 

Seane, who comes from a family of five, said her husband moved out of their home after testing positive for Covid-19. She also had to move out so the family's helper could stay and look after her eight-year-old child, who had tested negative. 

“We will need counselling. My child is very traumatised. She is even scared to go back to school because she does not fully understand,” Seane said. 

She said she was ready to go home and face people. 

“I have already dealt with the stigma because the people in our complex knew my husband had tested positive. When I came here I had already counselled myself,” she said. 

Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku slammed criticism of the conditions at the state facility, specifically referring to complaints about temperature control during winter.

“Yes Nasrec does get cold, but the air-conditioning system that has been put in place is impressive,” he said. 

Masuku said 420 beds were available for quarantine and 50 beds for isolation, adding that the centre had space to cater for an additional 100 beds. 

CEO of the facility, Dr Vis Naidoo, said there had only been one death at the Nasrec facility so far. The patient who died two weeks ago was a 56-year-old man who had been asymptomatic. 

Masuku said the majority of staff members at the facility had been redeployed from the health department.

While the province expects to hit a peak in infections in the coming weeks, Masuku said his department would continue with the procurement of more nurses.

The health department said on Friday that the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Gauteng sits at 49,937, with 14,097 recoveries and 282 deaths.

This is a sharp increase from Thursday's 45,944 cases, and 244 deaths. There were 12,957 recoveries a day ago.

The department said 1,800 of people are currently hospitalised in public and private facilities.


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