SA needs to learn to live with coronavirus, says Prof Karim

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Durban – Professor Salim Abdool Karim believes that South Africans need to learn to live with coronavirus.

In an interview with Jacaranda FM’s Breakfast with Martin Bester, Karim said that the idea of sending children back to school and opening more sectors of the economy was contradictory as the country moves towards its peak. 

“Many things we’re doing is a contradiction, like having more cases, but easing restrictions. It’s reasonable that we go back to school and back to work. We must learn to live with the virus,” he said. 

Karim, who chairs the South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee, also explained that smokers were more at risk and had a substantially higher death rate than those who did not smoke. He said according to two Chinese-based studies, smokers had a substantially higher death rate that non-smokers. He added that smokers went into distress quicker than non-smokers. 

On Thursday, National Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, said the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in SA had increased to 238 339, however according to Karim, the epidemic is going as predicted. 

In the interview, Karim explained that of all people who get Covid-19, half will be asymptomatic while of the remaining half, 1 in 5 people will need some kind of medical care while some will need to be hospitalised and somewhere between 1 and 2% of patients will succumb. 

He also clarified the issue around the cause of death of people who contracted Covid-19.

“Contributors are indicated. In cases where Covid-19 could be a contributor, it is counted as a Covid-19 death,” he said. 

While Mkhize announced that just over two million tests had been conducted to date, Karim noted that there were irregularities with testing. 

He said the single biggest issue was that suppliers could not meet the worldwide demand. null

“So we cannot buy enough tests. We are doing around 35 000 tests per day but we would like to double that. We have the capacity – (the) same equipment that we use for HIV and TB. We do not have tests and we have too many samples coming in. So, rather than testing and having people wait for extended periods of time for results, we advise people to quarantine for 14 days,” he said. 

Karim said there were about 130 different vaccines and several were in an advanced stage including one that started in SA two weeks ago. 

“Humankind has never made a vaccine against coronavirus before. It takes time. We may bot get a vaccine anytime this year or next year. The earliest vaccine could come in the next 18 months,” he said. 

Karim rubbished claims that Covid-19 was just media hype. 

“People will come up with every conspiracy theory, because they need to find someone to blame. Fact is that many people will survive, but, because so many people can get infected, numbers that die will still be high. This is the 2nd worst epidemic of respiratory virus in the history of mankind. The 1918 Spanish Flu was worse,” he stated.


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