How SA went from WHO praise to global negative press as Covid-19 cases surge

17 July 2020 - 06:56 By Cebelihle Bhengu
There are now 311,049 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in SA. The country's battle with the virus has attracted global media coverage.
There are now 311,049 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in SA. The country's battle with the virus has attracted global media coverage.

As Covid-19 infections spike, the country's health system continues to be overburdened and ICU and trauma units are filled to capacity. The pandemic has not only added pressure, it has also exposed cracks in the health system that even the global community is beginning to take note of.

In April, SA was praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) executive secretary Dr Michael Ryan. He praised the deployment of community health-care workers and said this helped bring the disease under control.

However, the praises don't seem to have lasted long. In the past three days, international publications reported on the negative side of SA's fight against Covid-19.

Hospitals of horrors - BBC

On Wednesday, the BBC published an expose of horror stories from a number of doctors and nurses in Port Elizabeth hospitals, who all said they work under appalling conditions and with limited critical equipment.

Dr John Black, who works at the Livingstone Hospital, said “services are starting to crumble under the strain”. He said the system was overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and that there was limited staff to handle the pressure.

According to the report, blood waste is spilling on the floor, there are rats in facilities and cleaning staff are on strike, which has further burdened nurses with more work cleaning for the patients.

Another doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said several newborn babies and mothers have died in the past week. He attributed the deaths to understaffing, which allegedly saw pregnant women wait for days for emergency surgeries.

SA among the worst- Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera reported that SA had the fourth-largest daily increase in Covid-19 cases globally on Tuesday. The report came on the heels of President Cyril Ramaphosa's address on Sunday, in which he announced that the ban of the sale of alcohol would be reintroduced to free up hospital beds for Covid-19 patients.

On Thursday afternoon, Worldometer placed SA in the top 10 countries worst affected by Covid-19.

Snaking queues for Covid-19 tests - Sky News 

On Wednesday, Sky News reported that the government may have imposed the lockdown to prepare the health system for the worst, but the spike, it seems, “has caught them by surprise”. At the Motherwell Hospital in Port Elizabeth, community members endure long lines to receive medication or to get tested for Covid-19.

The visuals showed that some nurses were given raincoats instead of proper PPE and some were covered in plastic.

A community member who spoke to the news network said the situation was hurtful.

“The sick are getting sicker, some are dying, it's hurting. We wonder, what our people are doing about this.”