5 lessons from South Africa’s Covid-19 response

By Se-Anne Rall Time of article published10h ago

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DURBAN – When the South African government took the decision to impose a national lockdown, it faced immense scrutiny from many sectors. The very term itself is a military term and came with a set of restrictions, however, according to co-chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the lockdown effectively flattened the curve and pushed the country’s expected peak from April to June/July.

“Our cases were doubling every two days and we were almost following the same pattern as the UK. We had only a few hundred cases and the early and decisive action by the government in implementing a State of Disaster, closing the country’s borders and the lockdown helped to stop the spread early. We flattened the curve early on,” he said.

Karim was reflecting on the past year and highlighting key issues relating to the epidemic in a media briefing hosted at the Caprisa offices at the UKZN Nelson Mandela School of Medicine yesterday.

He said a change in behaviour and government intervention played a part in lowering the numbers.

Karim shared five lessons from South Africa’s Covid-19 response:

Took the disease seriously and acted timeously

  • Took difficult decisions, willing to do what was needed – even if unpopular
  • Proactive planning and early implementation of interventions

Truthful and proactive in communicating with the public

  • Minister published statistics daily and held regular media briefings to keep public informed

The Covid-19 response has had its errors, problems and abusers

  • Abuse by lockdown military patrols, some irrational regulations and PPE corruption

South Africa can move mountains when we act together

  • Defy ventilators, people helping people in times of hardship, The Solidarity Fund

Draw upon this experience to prepare for the next pandemic

  • Epidemic Response Unit with surveillance and integrated data networks
  • Build local diagnostic test and vaccine manufacturing facilities
  • Surveillance for variants – threat to our vaccination strategy


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