The COVID-19 pandemic put huge strain on South Africa’s hospitals, and public hospitals are now finally enjoying a moment of respite as the peak of the virus seems to have passed.

Hospitals in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng were hit the hardest during the pandemic. Now, six months after South Africa’s initial outbreak, the country has one of the lowest mortality rates in the world and a recovery rate of almost 90%.

Speaking to Eyewitness News, CEO the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg, Gladys Bogoshi said that they recorded an average of eight deaths per day. “During the peak, we had set aside 314 beds for COVID patients and at times we were running them at an occupancy rate of up to 90%. Now the beds are 42% occupied,” she said.

Minister Zweli Mkhize reports that the number of detected cases countrywide continues to decline. Since August 22 the country has reported under 3000 cases a day- at the height of the epidemic during the month of July we would report anything between 10 000 and 15 000 cases a day.

Supporting this decline is also a demonstrable decline in persons under investigation, general ward admissions, ICU admissions, deaths and excess deaths.

Experts are still warning hospitals that a second wave may approach, and public hospitals are now confident that they will be better prepared to handle a second peak. Field hospitals that were set up to deal with the surge of COVID-19 cases have been dismantled or are being repurposed for other use.

Experts have also said that the country’s early response plan, paired with its large population of youths and possible immunity developing in some communities may be the key to a lower death toll, higher recovery rate and lower-than-predicted infection rate.

“The downward trajectory is probably a combination of factors. The one is related to us possibly reaching some sort of a threshold in terms of herd immunity. My estimate – and we are doing the surveillance right now – is probably 40 to 45% of the population might have been infected especially in highly densely populated areas,” said Professor Shabir Madhi, one of South Africa’s top vaccinologists.

South Africa has a cumulative number of 650 749 COVID-19 cases. Our recoveries now stand at 579 289 which translates to a recovery rate of 88,9%. The total number of COVID-19 related deaths to 15 499.

Picture: Pixabay

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