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UCT epidemiologist: Covid-19 will be with us for at least a year to 18 months

3 July 2020 9:02 AM
Tags:
#Covid19
Covid-19 mortality rates

Prof Boulle says W Cape trend a lower, flatter trajectory that will continue for a long time but is easier on the health system.

If this province stood alone as its own country, and we compared our Covid-19 deaths to other nations, we would be among the worst daily mortality rates in the world.

Epidemiologist Prof. Andrew Boulle who has crunched the numbers and found that poorer areas of the Cape, like the Klipfontein health subdistrict, have a mortality rate of about 700 per million people.

Another hotspot, Khayelitsha has a lower rate of 500 per million.

But compare that to the United Kingdom or the USA, and it makes for shocking reading. The UK has a rate of 660 per million, and in the USA is 390. In South Africa, it is just under 48.

Prof Andrew Boulle of the University of Cape Town Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research talks to Lester Kiewit about new research showing the Western Cape's Covid-19 mortality rate is among the highest in the world.

I think the reason for that point being made is that although South Africa has been spared the dramatic impact of Covid that many countries faced early this year, it's easy to lose view of the fact that we are still in a health crisis and quite a substantial one.

Prof Andrew Boulle, Epidemiologist - Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research UCT

Although Covid-19 mortality has declined the world over, at the moment globally, countries like South Africa, lower-middle-income countries, are experiencing a different kind of epidemic but one where it is still having substantial morbidity and mortality.

Prof Andrew Boulle, Epidemiologist - Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research UCT

He says for many who have been in lockdown and may not know anyone who has been directly impacted by Covid-19, they may not realise the country is in the midst of a health crisis and the need for safety measures from social distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitising are vital.

How accurate are the testing numbers versus the number of infections?

Definitely, we know the number of cases being reported is a poor reflection of the total number of people infected - because only people who are falling sick or are in particular categories are being tested.

Prof Andrew Boulle, Epidemiologist - Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research UCT

However, data based on hospitalisations and deaths are reasonably accurate he says. He acknowledges that not all events are captured, but the method used is consistent and so the trends measured are consistent.

He adds that they do make adjustments for delays and completeness in reporting hospitalisations and deaths.

We do believe the trends are relatively robust.

Prof Andrew Boulle, Epidemiologist - Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research UCT

According to the latest modelling data, a more flattened curve is expected to last longer.

RELATED: Western Cape braces for 'longer and flatter' Covid-19 peak

Boulle says it is very difficult to know precisely what is going to happen, but the modelling done has shown a realistic scenario and one that needs to be prepared for.

This is one that continues with a significant number of clinical events for a longer period - so a lower, flatter trajectory - which is what we hoped for.

Prof Andrew Boulle, Epidemiologist - Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research UCT

It means health services in the province have coped more easily, he says, but it does mean the province is still in for a long period of Covid-19 related infections, hospitalisations, and mortality.

Unless something radical happens we have to be prepared that this is the new normal for at least a year to eighteen months.

Prof Andrew Boulle, Epidemiologist - Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research UCT

Listen to the interview below:


3 July 2020 9:02 AM
Tags:
#Covid19
Covid-19 mortality rates

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