SA’s top epidemiologists: We must get back to normal now before Covid-19 peak hits

SA’s top epidemiologists: We must get back to normal now before Covid-19 peak hits

Quarraisha, left, and Salim Abdool Karim. Bhekisisa

Quarraisha and Salim Abdool Karim both serve on the ministerial committee that advises President Cyril Ramaphosa on SA’s Covid-19 response.

The increasingly prominent couple advises that life must return to normal to help the country deal with the Covid-19 peak infection rate, which is expected to hit by August or early September.

They say lockdown has a limited ability to prevent Covid-19 from spreading, as it can only slow it for a short while.

Quarraisha Abdool Karim told Bhekisisa in a webinar at the end of April: “If we want no risk of contracting the virus, we would have to stay inside our homes for 18 months plus, until we have a vaccine. That’s simply not practical, we have to start to do things. Schools, just like workplaces, shopping malls and hospitals, are going to see outbreaks.

“Although children generally get mild Covid-19 symptoms, many of them live in households with multiple generations, so there would be grandparents or even parents older than 60, and they are vulnerable to serious Covid-19 disease. Children would need to learn to do social distancing at home: less hugging and kissing, constant hand washing and they would need to wear masks,” she said.

Salim Abdool Karim believes getting back to normal will help manage the outbreak at its peak: “That means we’ve got two to three months to get back to our lives – to get our children back to school and ourselves to our jobs.”

He predicts local air travel could even return soon.

“We’re likely to see easing of domestic travel earlier, but it will come with restrictions about who can fly and there will be precautions to take, for which masks will be central.”

“I cannot see international travel in the immediate future. Our big concern with international travel is that travellers will be coming in from other countries where the virus is spreading at a rapid rate,” he said.

(Edited by Mungo Poore)

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