March 23, 2020

Can South Africa's strained health system prevent spread of COVID-19?

Health experts worry high economic inequality and low access to healthcare will speed transmission of coronavirus in South Africa.

On Monday, March 23 at 19:30 GMT:
The total number of South African coronavirus cases reached 402 on Monday, increasing fears that an even more widespread outbreak could potentially be disastrous for the nation's strained healthcare system. COVID-19 was first confirmed in South Africa on March 5 and the country currently has the most cases of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa.

On March 15, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and announced actions to contain the virus's spread. These measures include canceling visas for foreigners from high-risk countries like the US, China, Italy, Iran and South Korea; school closures and a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people. Most of the country's seaports have shut down and more than half of South Africa's border crossings also have been closed.

In a nation that has one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the world, many South Africans rely on a public health system that is already overburdened. One of the country’s biggest concerns is if COVID-19 continues spreading in impoverished townships and slums - areas where access to clean water for hand washing is scarce and self-quarantine practices are difficult.

In this episode of The Stream, we'll look at what South Africa is doing in response to coronavirus. Join the conversation.


On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Fahmida Miller, @FahmidaMiller


Mosa Moshabela, @MoshabelaMosa
Dean of School of Nursing and Public Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal


Siviwe Gwarube, @Siviwe_G
Member of parliament at Democratic Alliance


Read more:
Tension, fear as South Africa steps up coronavirus fight - Al Jazeera
Africa should ‘prepare for the worst’ with virus, WHO says - AP

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