Around 12 million South Africans may have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic broke out, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said in a statement on Monday.
This figure, which translates to about 20 percent of South Africa’s population, is based on revised seroprevalence models of detected and undetected cases. Seroprevalence is a measure of the overall occurrence of a disease within the population.
South Africa had a total of 650,749 confirmed cases as of Monday (14 September). This is far lower than than the latest seroprevalence models suggest.
Level of immunity
The Minister said the surge experienced in July and early August is receding, which “raises the question of the level of immunity that may already be existing in society.”
He said initial models had indicated that COVID-19 seroprevalence fell between 29 and 40 percent of the population. “We are currently embarking on a national seroprevalence study which should take us closer to the actual seroprevalence of coronavirus antibodies and will give us a more accurate indication of our status of national immunity,” Mkhize added.
Level 1 lockdown South Africa
Anticipation is rising that a move to level 1 lockdown in South Africa is imminent. In his statement, Mkhize said the Health Department had “considered” relaxing various restrictions for the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).
Level 1 lockdown South Africa rules could therefore entail the relaxation of “curfew, religious gatherings and travel restrictions,” Mkhize hinted. The NCCC would make final recommendations to the Cabinet for adoption, he added.
“Whatever decisions are made, it is important to emphasise that the risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 still remains and that non-pharmaceutical interventions remain important as we learn to co-exist with the coronavirus,” the Minister cautioned.
The news comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa was scheduled to convene a meeting of the Presidential Coordinating Council (PCC) on Tuesday (15 September).
“The meeting is expected to deliberate on a report from the National Coronavirus Command Council on the country’s response to the pandemic,” the Presidency said on Monday.
According to Mkhize, case management data demonstrates a downward trend of the pandemic. “The number of detected cases countrywide continues to decline. Since the 22nd of August, we have reported under 3,000 cases a day. At the height of the epidemic during the month of July, we would report anything between 10,000 and 15,000 cases a day.
“Supporting this decline is also a demonstrable decline in persons under investigation, general ward admissions, ICU admissions, deaths and excess deaths. Consistency across these indicators reassures us that indeed we are in the midst of a trough in the pandemic,” he explained.