South Africa’s coronavirus cases rise sharply to 264,184


South Africa's coronavirus cases rise sharply to 264,184
People wait in line to receive food in Pretoria, South Africa, May 2, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. PHOTO | REUTERS

South Africa’s coronavirus cases have doubled in just two weeks to a quarter-million putting it at 10th position on the global map of COVID-19  infections.

The country now has 264,184 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 3,971 deaths.

According to the Worldometers website, total number of coronavirus tests conducted in South Africa as of Saturday is 2,108,570.

This is out of a population of 59,328,450 people.

The surging cases are raising sharp concerns about unequal treatment in the pandemic, as the wealthy hoard medical equipment and use private hospitals and the poor crowd into overwhelmed public facilities.

Some of the worst-affected countries are among the world’s most unequal. South Africa leads them all on that measure, with the pandemic exposing the gap in care.

Private purchases of gear

In Johannesburg, the epicenter of South Africa’s outbreak, badly needed oxygen concentrators that help COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe are hard to find as private businesses and individuals are buying them up, a public health specialist volunteering at a field hospital, Lynne Wilkinson, told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s public hospitals are short on medical oxygen — and they are now seeing a higher proportion of deaths than private ones, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said.

To complicate matters, the country’s troubled power utility has announced new electricity cuts in the dead of winter as a cold front brings freezing weather. Many of the country’s urban poor live in shacks of scrap metal and wood.

More than 8,000 health workers across Africa have been infected, half of them in South Africa.

And in Kenya, some have been outraged by a local newspaper report that says several governors have installed intensive care unit equipment in their homes.

The country that has so far reported 9,726 cases lost its first doctor to COVID-19 this week.

“The welfare, occupational safety & health of frontline workers is a non-negotiable minimum!!” the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union tweeted after her death.

On Saturday, the union and other medical groups urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to implement a promised compensation package to ease the “anxiety and fear that has now gripped health care workers.”

Africa has the world’s lowest levels of health staffing and more than 560,000 cases, and the pandemic is reaching “full speed,” the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Many parts of the world are facing fresh waves of infections as they try to reopen their economies.

Globally, as of Saturday afternoon EDT, nearly 12.6 million people have been infected by the virus and nearly 562,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the pandemic’s true toll is much higher because of testing shortages, poor data collection in some nations and other issues.

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