It is not the economic heart of South Africa, Johannesburg, which has the most corona infections, but the holiday town of Cape Town, known for its tourist attraction, Table Mountain. More than 60 percent of all infections in the country are diagnosed here. And cases are still being added.
First, the SPAR supermarket in my neighborhood closed for a day because an employee was infected with the corona virus. Everything was disinfected and customers were reassured via social media that it was really safe again. However, from that day on my family preferred to choose another store.
In the meantime, there is not much to choose from. Employees are also infected at four other supermarkets in the area. Doors close and after using a lot of disinfectant and testing staff, they eventually open again.
It is part of the explanation why, contrary to expectations, Cape Town has become the epicenter of the corona pandemic in South Africa: contaminated supermarket workers. That says epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim, head of the South African corona committee that advises the government.
The Western Cape Province, where Cape Town is located, has over 12,000 infections, 63 percent of the national total of over 19,000. “It seems that many contaminants can be traced back to a number of supermarkets in Cape Town where super spreaders worked, employees who infected many people,” says epidemiologist Karim.
“As a result, a number of neighborhoods have become hot spots. But we are investigating it even further. We certainly do not yet have a complete picture of why the figure is so much higher than in the rest of the country.”
Peak is yet to come
The main reason for the higher corona figures is that the authorities of the Western Cape province test that they test differently and more than in the rest of the country. They consciously go to trouble spots, which gives them more positive results. They suggest it could be just as bad in the rest of the country, but there is simply less data.
However, according to epidemiologist Karim, the infections in Cape Town are indeed higher. “We are also seeing more deaths in the Western Cape, so there is certainly more corona than elsewhere in the country.”
235 people have died in Western Cape to date. The national total is 369. South Africa is behind the Netherlands and many other countries. The peak is yet to come. In Cape Town it is now expected in June and in the rest of the country in July or August.
South African scientists who advise the government warned this week that 40,000 people could die from the coronavirus this year and that there may not be enough intensive care beds in a few weeks.
One of the country’s corona hot spots is the poor township of Khayelitsha. “There was fear from the outset that the virus would spread quickly in townships,” said MSF spokesman Sean Christie. The organization has been working in the district for almost two decades.
“It is impossible to keep a distance there. People live in slums and in each other’s backyard. They share facilities, such as toilets.” MSF is setting up a field hospital for corona patients in Khayelitsha to provide some hospital care in the township. relieve.
Less testing for HIV
Until now, they worked mainly with HIV and tuberculosis patients in the neighborhood. They see that the attention for those diseases is now much less. Not much is tested for HIV and tuberculosis as much as for the coronavirus.
“We hope they can integrate testing to test people for HIV, corona and tuberculosis,” says Christie. Otherwise, the fear is that there will be more victims there. More than 60,000 South Africans die from tuberculosis every year.
Despite the explosive growth in the number of corona infections, many South Africans want the rules of the lockdown to be relaxed. The lockdown is currently very strict. Only a limited number of sectors, such as the mining and textile industry, are allowed to work at a lower capacity. Furthermore, people have to work at home. You can only go outside for a detour between 06:00 and 09:00 in the morning.
Cape Town Prime Minister Alan Winde of the Democratic Alliance opposition party also argues in favor of easing the lockdown in his hit city. He is afraid of hunger among the population.
Many South Africans work in the informal economy, for example as a cleaner or market seller. They have no income at all now. Winde also predicts a loss of 200,000 jobs in his province.
That is why, according to him, the economy should be restarted somewhat from 1 June, despite the higher number of infections.