South Africa has passed the peak of the COVID-19 curve and the number of infections is going down.
Exactly half a year ago, a national state of disaster was declared by the government to fight the spread of COVID-19. It has been a stressful time of elevated levels of social isolation, hunger, criminal activity, panic buying, fake news, looting, protesting, businesses slowing down, and the unforeseen loss of important people.
Some of the National Lockdown key events were:
- 1 – 12 March – Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize announced the first confirmed Covid patient, who reported symptoms to his GP and went into self-isolation before being admitted into hospital.
- 15 – 20 March – Local infections increased quickly and O. R. Tambo International Airport started isolating foreigners on arrival and returning them to their home countries.
- 23 – 27 March – A national 21-day lockdown was announced by President Ramaphosa to begin on 26 March to 16 April. By 24 March, all 9 provinces had confirmed cases, with the first cases in the Northern Cape and North West announced. The country’s first death was announced on 27 March.
- 1 – 13 April – Free hand sanitisers were dispensed to communities in need. Government and private businesses set up various solidarity funds. St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban was shut down after an outbreak of over 60 confirmed cases. We started wearing a face mask in public to protect ourselves from being infected. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the national lockdown would be extended from 21 days to 35 days.
- 23 – 30 April – President Ramaphosa received an international donation of personal protective equipment (PPE). There were 4 294 new cases in April, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 5 647. The death toll rose to 103. The number of recovered patients increased to 2 073, leaving 3 471 active cases at the end of the month.
- 19 May – It was advised that there would be an estimated 475 confirmed COVID-19 deaths by the end of that month, and more than 40 000 deaths by November. It was also estimated that there could be insufficient ICU beds by June or July. By the end of the month, there had been 683 deaths, with 27 036 new cases and 16 809 recoveries.
- 3 June – Minister Dlamini-Zuma extended the state of disaster, which was to lapse on 15 June, 3 months after its announcement, to 4 July stating that there was a need to keep controlling the impact on COVID-19 in South Africa.
- Throughout the month, there were 118 526 new cases, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 151 209. The death toll rose to 2 657. The number of recovered patients increased by 56 734 to 73 543. At the end of the month, there were 75 009 active cases.
- 12 July – President Ramaphosa announced that the anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases had arrived. The state of disaster was extended until 15 August 2020 and the alcohol ban was reintroduced along with a new curfew from 21:00 until 4:00. The sale and distribution of alcohol had led to increased pressure on hospitals from road traffic accidents, trauma and violence which happened mostly at night.
- 23 July – President Ramaphosa announced the re-closure of all public schools for four-weeks from 27 July to 24 August 2020 and the extension of the academic year into 2021.
- In July, the death toll tripled to 8,005. The number of recovered patients increased by 252 628 to 326 171. At the end of the month, there were 159 007 active cases.
- 15 August – President Ramaphosa announced the passing of the COVID-19 peak, the lowering of restrictions to level 2 and the extension of the national state of disaster by another month.
- 16 September – Less than 2 000 cases a day have been recorded and the recovery rate has reached 89%. President Ramaphosa announced the lowering of restrictions to level 1, beginning from 21 September 2020. The national state of disaster has been extended by one more month.
In all this time, more than 15 000 South Africans have lost their lives to the disease and there have been more than 650 000 cases.
Even as restrictions have eased over the last month with the move to alert level 2, there has been a gradual decline in new cases. We have succeeded in overcoming the worst phase of this epidemic while protecting the capacity of our healthcare system.