The situation in South Africa is overlaid by multiple other crises: HIV/Aids, TB and a failing health sector.
It is against this background that we need to see President Ramaphosa’s lockdown.
When he went on television yesterday the number of coronavirus cases stood at 402. Today it stands at 554. This number is tragically likely to soar.
South Africa is absolutely ripe for the virus to rip through.
Think of the informal settlements that ring the cities.
So many rely on communal taps; communal toilets.
As one article put it: “By 2014, 23 percent of the urban population in South Africa were living in informal housing settlements or “shacks,” which are generally built poorly out of tin and other materials…There is often no sanitation or plumbing, no running water and no electricity.”
Many households are overcrowded, and there is no private space for children to play in or adults to live their lives.
Perfect for a virus like coronavirus that spreads with such rapidity.
HIV/Aids and TB
Coronavirus is particularly deadly for anyone with a compromised immune system.
So many South Africans have compromised immunity.
Over seven million South Africans are HIV positive – one in five of the population aged 15 to 49. HIV prevalence among young women is nearly four times greater than that of young men.
South Africa is one of the countries with the highest burden of TB. The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics give an estimated incidence of 322,000 cases of active TB in 2017.
President Ramaphosa’s ‘lockdown’ will last three weeks. It may be all that poor South Africans can bear. But it is unlikely to halt this virus.
Especially as the health-care system is in such a poor state.
“The country’s poorest people have access to free treatment at about 3,800 public clinics and hospitals, but these facilities are all too often plagued by broken equipment and shortages of medicine. Only five of 696 facilities covered in the Office of Health Standards Compliance’s most recent report met 80% of their required performance criteria in areas such as drug availability and proper infection control. South Africa also has insufficient medical personnel, with a doctor-patient ratio of 0.9 per 1,000, lower than in Brazil, Russia, China and Mexico. “
The only conclusion one can come to is that many, many people are likely to die before this crisis is over.