Words: Dr Clio Pillay Images: Supplied
On 11 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was first reported in China. Most people who get the virus have only mild symptoms and recover. However, elderly people or those with other health problems have more chance of severe illness or in some cases, death.
To date (10 May), there have been 3 917 366 cases, with than 274 361 deaths globally. Italy, Iran and Republic of Korea were some of the first countries outside of China to have outbreaks. Italy is one of the worst affected, now with 30 395 deaths, which is more than China. The Republic of Korea has had 256 deaths.
So what makes Italy different from Korea? The latter country implemented an extensive testing programme in combination with strict isolation of infected people. People complied with social distancing, stopped non-essential travel, and if they tested positive, or were at high risk, they self-isolated.
Italy, on the other hand, was slower to respond with strict measures and the virus spread quickly. Many Italians have issued chilling warnings, saying they wish they had taken it more seriously before
it was too late. The Italian healthcare system has been overwhelmed. There have not been enough doctors or intensive care unit (ICU) beds and ventilators for severe cases that need help breathing.
In South Africa, the situation could potentially be even worse. Our healthcare system is already under immense pressure, and many people have underlying health conditions. The fate of South Africa’s trajectory with COVID-19 depends on everyone working together to slow transmissions.