South Africa’s Covid-19 death toll reached 29 175 deaths on Saturday.
This, after 288 more Covid-19 related deaths were reported on New Year’s Day.
In his daily update, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that the cumulative number of Covid-19 cases in South Africa was now 1 088 889.
The cumulative total of tests done to date is 6 706 231 with 46 913 tests conducted in the past 24 hours, according to the Health Department.
Western Cape has the highest death rate with just over 7000 fatalities and Northern Cape has the lowest tally with 392 deaths.
Gauteng has the highest number of confirmed cases, now sitting at 295 450, and Northern Cape the least with just over 25 000.
‘Missing the vaccine boat… A monumental and unforgivable failing’
The grim stats come as a group of eminent South African scientists issued a stinging rebuke of the country’s vaccine procurement process, saying President Cyril Ramaphosa will have to dispense with his “otherwise admirable political consensus management and wield the axe” against the members and officials in his administration responsible for the perilous Covid-19 vaccine fiasco and immediately set about correcting the course South Africa is currently on.
A provincial breakdown of the daily increase rates underscored the urgency of acquiring a vaccine.
The group, which includes Prof Glenda Gray, President, SA Medical Research Council; Prof James McIntyre, School of Public Health, University of Cape Town; Prof Marc Mendelson, Head of Infectious Diseases and HIV, University of Cape Town; and Dr. Aslam Dasoo, Convenor, Progressive Health Forum angrily noted that while developed and developing nations alike appear to have proceeded with early negotiations for future vaccine procurement several months ago without any qualms, South Africa has “neither a secured vaccine supply nor a plan for mass inoculation in the foreseeable future… This portends for this country the worst ravages of Covid-19 in the year ahead.”
“In a moment of existential threat, this incoherence in lead institutions is simply intolerable.”
On Saturday, health workers also demanded a vaccine rollout to “bring the pandemic under control.”
In a petition, signatories called on the health department to start by vaccinating frontline health workers, followed by those most at risk.
“We call on the Department of Health to act urgently, transparently and decisively now to obtain vaccines and to implement vaccination, so as to reduce death and illness, and bring the pandemic under control.” So reads a letter started by Professor Heather Zar, a leading public sector paediatrician at Cape Town’s Red Cross Childrens Hospital.
Over 2 500 people had signed the petition by the time of publication.
Many are well-known doctors, nurses, and researchers, including Professor Francois Venter, former head of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, Professor Ntobeko Ntusi, Head of the Department of Medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital, Professor Lucille Blumberg of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and Professor Helen McShane of Oxford University.
The United States surpassed the landmark 20 million COVID-19 cases on New Year’s Day, registering some 350 000 deaths since the pandemic began.
The US has recorded more cases than any country – nearly a quarter of the world’s more than 83 million confirmed cases.
It’s double what India – the country with the second-highest number of cases has reported and nearly triple what Brazil – the third country in line – has registered.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN the US has seen a surge that has “just gotten… out of control.”
“That’s what we’re concerned about – that in addition to the surge, we’re going to have an increase superimposed upon that surge which could make January even worse than December.”
In the UK, authorities recorded the fourth successive day of COVID-19 cases above 50,000, with reports that hospitals are “hospitals are absolutely bursting” as it desperately tries to cope with a surge in infections, largely driven by the new “more infectious” strain of the virus.
Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the new more-infectious variant of the virus was spreading across the country. Case numbers were “mild” compared to where they would be in a week, he said, and doctors were “really worried.”