The President of South Africa has just announced a 21-day “stay-at-home” whole-country lockdown to flatten the curve. This is what that means.
Union Buildings, South Africa (23 March 2020) – President Cyril Ramaphosa has just announced a 21-day “stay-at-home” whole-country lockdown for South Africa effective from Thursday the 26th of March 2020.
The continued spread of the coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 is a major concern as the country only has a short window of opportunity to “flatten the curve” prior to the infection point, by reducing interactions between infected and uninfected people.
The goal is to control the spread of COVID-19 through steps to test the susceptible population, quarantine the suspected cases and offer treatment to the infected and confirmed, as well as block the transmission route in the shortest time and limited space.
In November 2019, the first cases of a new disease, later named COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation, were reported by health care workers from Wuhan, China. In December 2019, researchers from Wuhan reported a cluster of pneumonia cases caused by a novel coronavirus, which has since been named SARS-CoV-2. In just 3 months, as of March 20, SARS-CoV-2 transmission has resulted in over 360 000 cases of COVID-19 that have been reported in 166 countries worldwide.
Valuable lessons are being learnt from the experiences of each country dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic and some trends are emerging including nine essential lessons on fighting coronavirus from around the world5.
One of the most significant lessons to be learnt from the experiences of China and Italy is that the Coronavirus epidemic can grow very rapidly and quickly overwhelm health care services leading to large number of avoidable deaths.
Singapore and South Korea were able to avoid this situation by interventions that “flattened the curve,” i.e. mitigated the exponential growth phase of the epidemic so that the health care service was able to cope with the demand for medical care, especially ventilators.
The mitigation involved the basic elements of infectious disease control – screening, diagnosing, isolating and contact tracing.
China’s “lock-down” approach has proven to be very successful in reducing new cases by reducing interactions between people that maintained the chains of transmission. China has now reported no new cases for two consecutive days. Several countries are now trying to emulate these interventions.
What the 21-day “stay-at-home” whole-country lockdown means for South Africa
1. South Africa has implemented a 21-day “stay-at-home” whole-country lockdown, where only absolutely essential personnel (such as doctors, nurses, police, etc.) and those requiring medical care will be allowed to leave home for restricted periods. Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances (to collect food or visit emergency services).
- For the homeless, either their existing locations or, where available, alternative temporary accommodation sites, will be used for their 21-day “stay-at-home” period.
- During this period, clinics, pharmacies, food stores, banks, petrol stations and hospitals will remain open.
2. To reduce transport and movement opportunities by the controlled closure of some modes of public transport and capillary road networks with only main roads remaining open and unobstructed.
- Due to disruptions in supply and distribution of goods, medical and other supplies will be secured and stored in bulk, including supplies such as personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
3. To implement spatially-based teams, including local volunteers, to implement house-to-house screening and testing which is managed at the level of enumerator areas (+ 300 households).
- To identify as many cases as possible, SARS-CoV-2 testing will be made widely available, and the criteria for a test will be relaxed, with commensurate increasing laboratory capacity.
4. Health care will be provided through triage to obtain “centralised treatment” for severe cases and “decentralised primary care” for mild cases.
- A key objective is not to overwhelm hospitals with unnecessary care seekers.
5. To record and manage data on the number of tests performed and the identification of every new case in each enumerator area, to identify hotspots for ongoing transmission.
- To implement further control measures in sites where viral transmission is continuing during the “stay-at-home” period. Importantly, accurate and reliable information on the nation’s progress towards controlling the epidemic will be provided.
You can also watch the announcement here: