An expert has urged South Africans to adhere to lockdown regulations aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus or South Africa could face an unsustainable epidemic that would cripple the country’s health system. Global health specialist Dr Zameer Brey expressed concern over pointless panic buying and that it threatens the health systems ability to adequately attend to patients.
Brey said the message from the government, the department of health and specialists is clear: stockpiling of masks, sanitizers and other protective goods is counterproductive. He urged citizens to buy only what you need for a duration of time
“It’s creating massive waves of uncertainty in the supply chain. Yes, there are global shortages because many the countries that produce these goods have been severely affected by the coronavirus.”
When questioned about whether or not South Africa health system is ready to respond to a massive demand on intensive care services, Brey said that the first point of order is to give shukr or thanks that the country’s situation hasn’t reached that level of crisis.
“We must start by saying Alghamdulilah (all praise is due to Allah), that South Africa is not needing to use this capacity.”
Although data is constantly changing, Brey said global trends show that less than 25% of people who get infected become fatalities.
“Usually, the trend is that 20% of people that get the disease will require hospitalization and 5% will require intensive care and or ventilators. That means for 1000 people, 200 will need to go to hospital and five in intensive care. if you look at South Africa’s stats, fortunately, both the numbers have been significantly lower, so far.”
Brey said the country is doing well relative to other countries, where the death toll has reached thousands and infections to tens of thousands.
“It is encouraging to see there has only been five deaths, that is a very low death rate. It’s also encouraging to see that very few people, comparative to other countries like Italy, Spain and USA, need hospital admissions,” he said.
The reliance on a ventilator, Brey explained, was only in extreme cases.
“Things may change. When people say there’s a ventilator shortage, I think the message should be clear that that is in the event that we end up with a very severe, widespread epidemic. May Allah protect us from ever getting to that point. In Shaa Allah.”
According to Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman, there is a global shortage of medical supplies and equipment, which makes it difficult to get the resources South Africa could need to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Sooliman has expressed concern that medical suppliers could be taking advantage of the pandemic by favouring richer countries. He has appealed to South Africans to adhere to calls of social distancing and hygiene because the country would not be able to afford mass infections.
Brey warned that nobody knows how the virus will progress but doing what can be done to lower the transmission rate means less hospital admission and ultimately less deaths.
“The best way for all of us to prevent a situation like Italy, where our fellow nurses and doctors are making the most difficult decisions of their lives to switch on or switch off ventilators for middle-aged people because that’s how constrained they are…”
“The best thing we can do is try to prevent transmission today. Adhere to the guidelines of the lockdown, really limit your social interaction as tough as that is. try to only go out when it’s absolutely essential. wash your hands at home, encourage the children to do the same. use the hand sanitizer when it’s appropriate when you’re leaving or entering the supermarkets, whatever you need to do,” urged Brey.
He further encouraged citizens to protect the vulnerable in our societies.
“Especially our elderly, please take care of them. Try to limit their exposure, support them during this time so they don’t even need to go out at all,” he appealed.
Sooliman meanwhile remained optimistic and said that the organization is expecting to receive new test kits, which would allow it to test people and get results within 45 minutes, next week.