South Africa fights rapid rise of COVID-19 in Johannesburg

JOHANNESBURG (AP) – A rapid resurgence of COVID-19 is hitting South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, and threatening to overwhelm its hospitals.

Johannesburg, a city of 5 million people, and the surrounding Gauteng province account for about 60% of the country’s new daily infections. The 7-day moving average of daily new cases in South Africa has doubled in the past two weeks, from 10 new cases per 100,000 people on June 10 to 22 per 100,000 people on June 24, according to Johns University. Hopkins.

Rise in South Africa cases is part of widespread resurgence across Africa whose peak is expected to exceed that of previous waves as the continent’s 54 countries struggle to immunize even a small percentage of their population.

The sharp rise in cases in Gauteng has yet to peak, prompting authorities to consider increased restrictions on public gatherings and alcohol sales. The vaccination campaign in South Africa got off to a slow start and to date, around 2.5 million of the country’s 60 million people have received at least one vaccine.

The military has sent medical personnel to help treat the growing number of patients. Hospitals in Gauteng province are so full that many patients are being sent to medical facilities within hours of driving in Mpumalanga and North West provinces, Lucky Mpeko, director of services at the Associated Press, told The Associated Press. QRS ambulance.

“The normal practice is that a patient has to be taken to the hospital closest to their home, but this has not been possible because the hospitals are full, they have no beds,” Mpeko said.

“Even when you are allowed to bring a patient to the hospital, you will have a queue (standing in line) for two or three hours while they try to find room for your patient,” Mpeko said. .

He said that under normal circumstances, taxis take 30 to 45 minutes to transport a patient to hospital, but now the time is often several hours because they have to travel such long distances.

The beta variant, first identified in South Africa, continues to dominate here. The alpha and delta variants are also here, but they are responsible for a minority of cases, according to health experts.

This week, the University of the Witwatersrand’s Faculty of Health in Johannesburg demonstrated against the government’s handling of the crisis and called on authorities to urgently reopen Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg, a designated COVID-19 center. . Parts of the hospital were destroyed by fire in April and more than 700 patients were evacuated. Initially, officials said the hospital would reopen in two weeks, but two months later it is still closed.

“It has a huge impact. We are talking about a 1,000-bed hospital closed in the midst of a pandemic, with a wave that is not comparable to those we had before, “said Professor Johnny Mahlangu, director of the university’s school of pathology. de Wits and who participated in the protests.

“This hospital has been declared a COVID-19 treatment facility and it is missing from the action and this is affecting us negatively,” he said. “The province is currently under siege by the pandemic and opening this facility will help us manage it.”

On Friday, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters demonstrated in the capital, Pretoria, against the slow pace of vaccinations.

The low vaccination rate in South Africa is accused of having contributed to the new wave. The country has experienced a vaccine shortage, among other delays.

On Thursday, Acting Minister of Health Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced that South Africa would soon include people aged 50 and over eligible for vaccination as the country seeks to expand its vaccinations. Until now, vaccinations have been limited to health workers, people aged 60 and over, and teachers.

This week, 300,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were allocated to begin immunizing teachers and other education workers.

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Follow more information on AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine


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