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Prof Karim: If we don't deal with the flames in time they will become fires

21 May 2020 11:58 AM
Tags:
mac
COVID-19
Prof Salim Karim
Ministerial Advisory Committee
lockdownsouthafrica

Karim says the virus will be here for a long time but It is key that we identify and contain the hotspots quickly.

Prof Salim Karim, world-renowned epidemiologist, director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research, as well as chair of the government’s Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee talks to Refilwe Moloto about progress in our fight against Covid19.

When we look at this Covid-19 epidemic, we expected back in March when we saw the cases rising rapidly, that it would seed itself in the general community and spread quite rapidly. It's what we have seen time and again in various countries.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

But he says, the early action taken in South Africa, has had the effect of blunting the infection spread, resulting in much lower transmission.

But this will not stay at these levels forever, he adds.

Once you ease the restrictions and people can start moving you would expect to see more cases.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

And the higher numbers in the Western Cape?

It seems much of the initial seeding of the virus from the general community occurred around areas that were supposed to be open during the lockdowns- such as grocery stores and important factories.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

But now, it is spreading beyond that. Because once it occurs in these hotspots, it can spread quite fast so we are seeing a much wider spread.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

He explains that the original prediction about the correct number of new daily infections determining the scaling up or down lockdown levels has changed as testing implementation has changed.

Since then, we have come up with better and more appropriate measures. Key to that is looking at what is the proportion of the tests that become positive.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

But this needs to be understood in the context of the virus being with us for a long time he adds.

So we have to figure out a way in which we can use the various tools in the prevention toolbox in order to ease some of the restrictions. Because it is not sustainable to remain in lockdown for months on end.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

In the Western Cape there are more infections so more testing is being done...it is a chicken and egg situation so you cannot blame the one for the other when the other is responsible.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

He says it is more constructive to take the approach that more cases and outbreaks are being found in the province and to study community hotspots.

We can see it is the deaths, the cases hospitals, and the tests that are positive. It is all three. So that tells us that we are now moving into a generalized epidemic. It will take time...it was expected. It is how a virus spreads.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

It is key that we identify the hotspots and need to contain the hotspots to the best of our ability so that cases will be a more manageable number.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

He says this is what he referred to in his original presentation.

There will be many little flames. If we don't deal with the flames in time they will become fires.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

This along with preparing medical services can never be done perfectly, he adds.

But with our imperfections, we need to find the best way to tackle both sides of the equation - to try to tackle the number of infections and at the same time prepare and ensure we have adequate health care service.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

Moving to level 3?

I think what is going to be key for us to understand what level 3 involves and to what extent the move is possible.

Prof Salim Karim, Chairperson - Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee

He says MAC's advisory role is to the Minister of Health only, and not the National Command Council.

Listen to Prof Karim below:


21 May 2020 11:58 AM
Tags:
mac
COVID-19
Prof Salim Karim
Ministerial Advisory Committee
lockdownsouthafrica

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