The World Health Organization (WHO)’s Africa director has warned that South Africa should prepare itself for a significant surge in COVID-19 cases after days of widespread rioting and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, two of the most populous provinces in the country.
Since the weekend of 10 July and the arrest and imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma, South Africa has been embroiled in the deadliest and most widespread civil unrest since the end of apartheid. 117 people have lost their lives in the violence and almost 1,500 people have been arrested. Including 12 who allegedly instigated the mass riots which are now being regarded as a concerted effort to destabilise the country by a Zuma-aligned rogue ANC faction.
“We are concerned about the last three or so days of rioting in some parts of South Africa, it may exacerbate the situation of a very severe wave,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Africa director, said on a conference call on Thursday, quoted by Bloomberg.
“The government has to brace itself, and we in the WHO will be preparing, to see an increase in the cases again.”
COVID-19 in SA
Mass rioting and looting in South Africa came just as the country saw the crest of a massive third wave of COVID-19 infections. Recently the country has been seeing less positive COVID-19 tests, but this could be caused by testing disruptions stemming from the unrest.
Nationally, South Africa🇿🇦 has crested the peak of #3rdWave of #COVID19, primarily driven by Gauteng having surpassed its peak 📉
However, we may experience a longer tail-end or even a potential upturn or spike in infections should current events turn into superspreader events ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/eXr6H9lZ12
— Ridhwaan Suliman (@rid1tweets) July 12, 2021
South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination programme has also been disrupted, with the government halting the jabs in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, the two regions that saw the most widespread violence.
The country’s third wave has been its largest, with the number of infections surpassing previous surges in terms of sheer caseload recorded in the last month, writes Business Insider.
Recently, however, the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 cases has started to decrease, which may be an indication that the country is over the peak of the third wave.
In the coming days, with the unrest in South African beginning to ease, there is a possibility that a renewed surge could take hold and undo the current slowing trend.