South Africans were filled with a sense of elation and relief following the announcement by Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, confirming a significant drop in the number of COVID-19 cases throughout the country. Thereby assuring we are indeed past the peak and have now begun to #flattenthecurve.
In support of this statement, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the chairperson of the ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, added that South Africa was indeed over the plateau and now on the decline. However, he stressed that South Africans need to remain vigilant due to the possibility of the second surge.
When referring to history, we need to note the errors of our forefathers and do our utmost in not duplicating the blunders of our past, as seen in 1918 with regards to the Spanish flu. Which after some time also saw a drop in numbers, having lockdown regulations being eased and people (prematurely) taking off their masks, tossing aside social distancing rules and getting back to normality. However, due to this sudden change in behaviour, the virus saw a bigger than before revival, laying waste to more people, than the first time around.
Thus, in lieu of our decline in numbers, regulation changes coupled with people returning back to some resemblance of normality, there is a concern of the COVID-19 virus making a strong comeback.
The Newcastillian – Online Daily News approached the highly qualified forerunner on the subject in the area, Dr Regina Hurley, the chair of the Mediclinic Newcastle COVID-19 task team, in order to obtain a better understanding of the situation and the potential realities therein.
As the trusted source of information on the subject we asked Dr Hurley the following:
Looking at the current stats within the Amajuba District, confirmed 6501 cases, 5805 recoveries and 108 deaths, have the number of COVID-19 figures dropped at Mediclinic Newcastle over the past couple of weeks? And what can be attributed to the decrease in cases?
Dr Hurley explains the number of positive cases being admitted to Mediclinic Newcastle has dropped significantly, decreasing to approximately 1/3 of the number of cases at the peak of the surge.
Going on to say, “The visits to the casualty department has also reduced. However, the admissions to the ICU have reduced minimally, as the complexity of the ICU patient with multiple comorbidities is still high.”
Speaking on the reduce numbers, Dr Hurley highlights the overall reduction in cases is a result of the natural course of the virus, a trend which has been seen around the world.
As people begin to slip back into normality, giving not as much thought to safety nor regulation as before, with the easing of the lockdown regulations, do Newcastillians have to be concerned about a resurgence of COVID-19? As seen in 1918 with regards to the Spanish Flu, whereby the second wave caused more damage than the initial wave.
To which Dr Hurley states, “As we move into Level 2 of lockdown, a second surge is a big concern for healthcare workers and the community. We have seen the progression of the second wave in other countries, sometimes weeks after the initial surge.”
She also highlights a recently released statement by Dr Karim, who cautions against a second wave of COVID-19. And I quote, “We must not let our guard down or get complacent about the prevention strategies.”
Therefore, she says Mediclinic Newcastle continues to enforce and uphold the various safety regulations in preparation for a second surge.
Building on this, Dr Hurley says, “Just this weekend, we have seen a small increase in cases, which may escalate this week,” she elaborates.
With the medical sector bracing for a second wave, not allowing themselves to be caught unaware, how can the community assist in stopping a second surge? What should the average person’s approach be towards COVID-19 over the next six months?
As the country and our day to day lives adapt to a life with an active virus looming around us, Dr Hurley reaffirms, the average person’s approach to COVID-19 during the next six months is rather simple. She says that social distancing, wearing face masks and regularly washing one’s hands should be incorporated into the “new normal” way of life.
“People must continue to protect vulnerable members of their family (the elderly and those with comorbidities).”
Looking at a proactive avenue, she says it is also vital for people to return to their General Practitioners to ensure any chronic conditions are addressed. “There has been an increase in non-COVID-19 deaths over the past few months in South Africa, which is most likely due to patients not attending to their chronic diseases.” such as cardiac issues and diabetes.
In order to take the first steps in vanquishing COVID-19, Dr Hurley says it is imperative we look at our way of life. “We must learn to co-exist with this virus, as predicted by experts, it will be with us for a while,” she concludes.
Heeding the advice of this highly versed professional on the matter, we as South African’s need to comprehend and accept that we are not out of the woods just yet. Yes, there is promise and we are on the right track. But, if like our forefathers we drop our guard and return to a lifestyle pre-virus, we can almost assure ourselves that a surge will follow.
Hopefully, medical science will once again be the hero of humanity, delivering the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine, thereby returning life back to normal, while saving countless lives.
In the meantime, support the brave souls of the medical sector and adhere to the rules and regulations.
Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer
Edited: Calvin Swemmer