Government holding back some 'fluid' Covid-19 modelling data to avoid panic, stigma - report


Government is shying away from releasing some Covid-19 modelling and projections data to avoid panic in communities and possible stigma, saying the projections were fluid and not "Gospel truth", according to a Sunday report.

According to the Sunday Times, experts believed that limiting the flow of scientific data on the pandemic meant that government would be making decisions on the reopening of the economy based on data that was not known by citizens.

But according to Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko, government was withholding models to avoid having them being known to be the "Gospel truth", the Sunday publication reported.

Diko told the publication that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had said the projections were fluid, and that government did not want to put out the information when it may change.

They do, however, acknowledge the need for people to feel they can make informed decisions.

Diko was quoted as saying they "need to allow people to feel more in control". That was something that was not being done as well as they could, "because when people are armed with information, they feel like they are taking charge of their lives", rather than just receiving info from government, she added.

News24 reported earlier this week that according to one of government's leading epidemiologists, Dr Harry Moultrie, there was "considerable" uncertainty over the spread and the effectiveness of the state and people's interventions to slow the spread of the virus.

Moultrie is also involved in mapping and modelling the spread of the coronavirus.

Moultrie said it was expected that parts of the country's healthcare system would be overwhelmed as a result of an expected "rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases over the next few months".

ALSO READ PREVIOUS REPORT ON DATA: EXCLUSIVE | The terrifying coronavirus projections that pushed govt into lockdown

By Saturday, South Africa had 9 420 coronavirus cases and 186 deaths, with the Western Cape being the biggest contributor, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced at a media briefing.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has in the past weeks visited the CSIR's offices in Pretoria where the Department of Health's data centre is set up.

Analysis of coronavirus data reported by the Department of Health has already showed that increases in cases have already begun.

News24 reported that the chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee Professor Salim Abdool Karim said this week that the increases in cases was not yet a cause for concern.

On Friday, the country saw its biggest one-day spike in new cases, hitting 663 cases.

Moultrie previously said there would be expected epidemic growth in the country as many return back to work after the easing of the lockdown and opening of some parts of the economy from 1 May.

"There, however, remains considerable uncertainty regarding both biological aspects of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the quantitative effectiveness of interventions by the government and individuals to decrease transmission," Moultrie previously said.

 - Compiled by Sesona Ngqakamba

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