Shivambu pans ‘deliberate distortion’ of Covid-19 facts – could he be right?

EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu. Picture: Jacques Nellis

The ‘ANC corrupt politicians will later come to say they’ve contained Covid-19, while they just reduced testing’, the EFF’s second in command says.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Deputy President Floyd Shivambu has come out guns blazing against “corrupt ANC politicians” for “deliberate distortion” of the official data pertaining to Covid-19 cases and tests, saying they would “later come to say they’ve contained Covid-19, while they just reduced testing”.

This comes after Health Minister Zweli Mkhize earlier on Wednesday said in a situational update on Covid-19, “We are happy that even with the targeted testing approach which we adopted as a department based on the Ministerial Advisory Committee advice, our testing numbers continue to grow. To date we have tested 3 078 202. This translate to a testing rate of 51 514 per million population which compares well to global figures.”

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Shivambu seized on this, and tweeted that “the declining Covid-19 infections are a deliberate distortion” and “will misguide response”.

“The daily tests have reduced by more than 50% from 40K to under 20K per day,” he said.

So what is the situation when looking at the official Covid-19 data sent out daily by the department of health?

On 24 July 2020 the data said that 52 382 tests had been conducted in the 24-hour period since the previous day’s report, while 13 944 new cases were reported.

On 30 July 2020 the number of daily tests had fallen to 44 886, with 11 046 new cases reported.

On 2 August 2020 the number of daily tests was even lower at 34 794 and 8 195 new cases were reported, while on 3 August the number of daily tests was 21 916 with 5 377 new cases.

And on 4 August, 19 507 tests were conducted since the previous day’s report, while 4 456 new cases were identified.

Mkhize is correct in saying “our testing numbers continue to grow”, as Covid-19 tests are still being conducted, but there has been a huge drop in the amount of daily tests – from 52 382 tests on 24 July, to 19 507 tests on 4 August. That is a difference of 32 875 tests being conducted per day, in a matter of one-and-a-half weeks.

A cursory glance at the data seems to support Shivambu’s view that less new cases are being reported because less tests are being done.

The number of new cases has dropped from 13 944 on 24 July, when 52 382 tests were done, to 8 195 new cases on 2 August, when 34 794 tests were done.

Furthermore, on 4 August the number of new cases was at 4 456, when 19 507 tests were done.

However, according to Mkhize, “The question that has been raised is whether the plateau that is observed in some provinces is due to reduced testing numbers or if indeed less people are becoming infected with Coronavirus. To assess this, we have looked at other key indicators which are that:

  • We have seen reduced hospital admissions and PUI’s presenting in health facilities;
  • We have not breached hospital capacity;
  • Despite the surge, we have not seen a significant increase in deaths.

“Whilst we are cautiously optimistic, it is still too early for us to make definite conclusions regarding the observed decline. We need to continue to track all these indicators and ensure that our testing capacity reflects a realist picture of our epidemiological status. We will therefore only know for sure when there is a consistent decline over a period.”

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