Health experts concerned unrest could impact tracking of COVID-19 third wave

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that in some communities, people might be too scared to leave their homes to get tested while others were not able to access roads.

FILE: A Doctors Without Border (MSF) nurse (C) performs a COVID-19 coronavirus test during a Ministry of Health screening and testing drive in the Wolhuter men's hostel in Jeppestown district of Johannesburg, on 14 May 2020. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Health experts are concerned that the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng could have an impact on tracking the COVID-19 third wave accurately over the next few days.

The vaccine programme has also hit a snag in parts of these provinces.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that in some communities, people might be too scared to leave their homes to get tested while others were not able to access roads.

The South African Medical Association (Sama) was also concerned because vaccines had to be re-routed to other provinces, while officials waited for calm to be restored in KwaZulu-Natal.

The NICD's acting director, Adrian Puren said that the impact of the violence, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, was far wider than just delays to COVID-19 testing.

They were also closely monitoring the death toll, fearing that many people might not have been been able to access life-saving healthcare in time.

He said that the health sector, in general, had been impacted.

The vaccination campaign has also been set back in KwaZulu-Natal and the South African Medical Association's chairperson, Angelique Coetzee, said there was likely to be more pressure on facilities next week as they tried to make up for lost time.

"The vaccination centres in Duran were closed down and in KwaZulu-Natal vaccinations will only start again on Monday," Coetzee said.

The vaccines that were meant for KwaZulu-Natal this week would now be diverted, with many going to the Western Cape.

But the Health Department said that as soon as the situation stabilised, more jabs would be delivered to KwaZulu-Natal.

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