13,524 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa as deaths jump to 247

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 13,524 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 785 cases from the 12,739 cases reported on Thursday, with the country having recorded some of its highest daily infection rates over the past 72-hours.

Dr Mkhize said on Friday (15 May), that the total number of deaths has now reached 247 – an increase of nine deaths from 238 reported before.

The minister said that he is encouraged by the number of recoveries which currently stands at 6,083. A total of 421,555 tests have been conducted, with 18,537 over the last 24-hours.

Globally, coronavirus cases moved past 4.55 million infections, with deaths at more than 304,000, and 1.71 million recoveries.

Wondering whether it’s safe to emerge from lockdown? Watching the daily coronavirus case trackers won’t help much. A better indication might come from the length of the lines outside the doctor’s office, Bloomberg reported.

To strike the right balance between restarting the economy and guarding against new waves of the pandemic, countries must focus on more than daily infection numbers and death tolls, according to scientists.

That’s because these are lagging indicators, showing the virus’s trajectory days or even weeks ago. The actual danger level in real time is better seen in more direct indicators.

Countries “need to build up a picture from a range of sources, and some of that is the death data, some of that is the infection data, and then some of that perhaps is survey data,” said Graham Cooke, a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London, which is working on a government survey of 100,000 people this week.

“Looking at the number of infections diagnosed as such is quite difficult to interpret on its own.”

Moving Averages

Scientists also suggest focusing on multiday moving averages to avoid overreacting to tiny changes in daily tallies.

In Germany, for instance, the so-called reproduction rate started creeping up over one again in recent days, just as the country eased its lockdown — meaning that every infected person was statistically passing it to more than one other person, Bloomberg reported.

But scientists advising the German government said individual days couldn’t be relied on because of the lag in data, and the rate has since fallen.

Germany reported a seven-day R0 – or R-naught – estimate of 0.88 Thursday, which means 100 people would only infect 88 people currently.

Countries are trying to keep this transmission number below 1 so that the disease eventually peters out.

“We just need to look at the graph of daily figures to see the problems” with only relying on that data, said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Moving averages can help “smooth out the fluctuations. This is the only way to make sense of what we are seeing.”

The World Health Organisation said Wednesday there are six indications of whether countries have got measures right when easing quarantines. They include the ability to detect, isolate and care for cases, as well as protective measures in workplaces. But even if all the criteria on its list are met, there are no guarantees of success.

It’s “no time for celebration, but time for preparation,” WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said Thursday. “We have seen that the strongest health systems can be overwhelmed in a couple of weeks.”

Regulations will be reviewed

Noting the challenges and frustrations experienced by the public and businesses due to a lack of clarity in some of the Level 4 regulations, Cabinet committed that regulations would be reviewed to provide the necessary clarity and enable improved compliance.

“Cabinet further noted variations in infection rates between different metropolitan and district municipalities. It is this differentiation that informed Cabinet to embark on a differentiated level approach as a response to Covid-19,” it said.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has outlined how South Africa’s new district-based lockdown will work.

Speaking in an interview with eNCA, Mkhize said that the government has tracked the rate of infection at a per-population basis, with a number of metropolitan areas highlighted as areas of concern.

“Obviously the Cape Town area has shown us a feature which is not seen in other parts (of the country) and that is what we call  cluster outbreaks.

“This is where people in an area explode the numbers. That tells us that there is a new trend we must watch out for and we are all concerned about all the metros.”

When looking at specific areas that are ‘hotspots’, Mkhize said that there are around eight or nine areas in the country which are a cause for concern.

He noted that these are also largely the areas with high economic activity.

The areas specifically mentioned by Mkhize include:

  • Johannesburg;
  • Tshwane;
  • Ekurhuleni;
  • Cape Town;
  • The Garden Route;
  • Nelson Mandela Bay;
  • Durban (eThekwini);
  • KwaDukuza.
  • Mangaung (Bloemfontein)

Mkhize said that government plans to monitor all of the above areas, and cannot allow the relaxation of restrictions in these districts.

“We will need to bring in a new strategy wherein each of the districts or metros are sub-divided into clusters of wards where we will station a multi-disciplinary team of experts.”

He added that each of these districts will be awarded an individual lockdown level based on the reported number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents. These levels will then be reviewed by the government every two weeks.

“Depending on the average active cases per 100,000 people, districts will be individually assigned levels of lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus,” Mkhize said.

Read: Ramaphosa lockdown apology shows he is not truly in charge: analyst

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