The Stream

Will unrest derail South Africa’s Covid-19 fight?

On Thursday, July 15 at 19:30 GMT:
A third wave of coronavirus cases sweeping South Africa is pushing frontline medical workers to the limit, with continuing unrest over economic inequality hampering deliveries of essential supplies.

Hospitals and doctors’ offices across the country have been overwhelmed by growing numbers of patients in recent weeks. Some hospitals are completely full, while stocks of oxygen are at critically-low levels. Almost two-thirds of recent cases have been registered in Gauteng province, home to South Africa’s administrative capital Pretoria and Johannesburg, the country’s largest city. On July 9, Johannesburg’s mayor died from complications stemming from COVID-19.

Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic more than 65,000 people in South Africa have died due to COVID-19, with more than 2.2 million cases recorded. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on July 11 declared that an existing 9pm-4am curfew, a nationwide ban on alcohol sales, and prohibitions on gatherings would remain in place for an additional fortnight.

But restrictions on movement to check the spread of coronavirus are also complicating government efforts to address discontent over poverty and inequality. Protests that were sparked by the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma for corruption have since mushroomed into a wider expression of anger over dire economic prospects. South Africa’s official unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2021 stands at 32.6%.

Health authorities are now racing to vaccinate millions of South Africans to help arrest coronavirus cases. But while the government is aiming to vaccinate about 300,000 people a day by the end of August, so far only 4.6 million vaccine doses have been administered within South Africa’s roughly 60 million population.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll look at the human impact of the latest wave of coronavirus cases in South Africa and what it will take for the country to get one step ahead of the Delta variant.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Dr Linda-Gail Bekker, @LindaGailBekker
Director, Desmond Tutu HIV Centre and Co-principal Investigator for the Sisonke vaccine study programme

Dr Yakub Essack
General Practitioner and Medical Co-ordinator, Gift of the Givers

Dr Owen Kaluwa, @WHOSouthAfrica
World Health Organization Representative to South Africa