#UnrestSA: Ongoing looting should be seen as Covid-19 superspreader events - epidemiologist

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People flee from police as they carry goods while looting and vandalising the Lotsoho Mall in Katlehong township, East of Johannesburg.
People flee from police as they carry goods while looting and vandalising the Lotsoho Mall in Katlehong township, East of Johannesburg.
Phill Magakoe / AFP
  • Epidemiologist Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim warned the unrest seen in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng might impact the provinces' Covid-19 numbers. 
  • The looters were in large numbers in confined spaces for hours and this was a recipe for superspreader events, she warned.
  • The SACP's first deputy secretary, Solly Mapaila, said issues in the governing party were contributing to the unrest. 

Epidemiologist Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim has warned the ongoing looting in parts of the country could be seen sa possible Covid-19 superspreader events. 

"The looters who are in large numbers in confined spaces for hours are the recipe for superspreader events. And while we will not see that for the next seven or 10 days, it's really not the curveball we need at this point in time," she warned. 

Abdool Karim was speaking during a Zoom briefing hosted by the Defend our Democracy campaign focusing on the current civil unrest.

She said the unrest was affecting preparations for the third wave in KwaZulu-Natal. 

READ | Major disruptions at Durban and Richards Bay ports due to unrest

"Through the looting that has been taking place, there has been enormous trauma injuries and burns that surgeons have to spend many hours sorting out in facilities that are now being diverted from their preparatory activities for the upcoming third wave in KZN to attending to these events. 

"We have seen essential services blocked, we have seen interruptions of our important Covid-19 vaccination programme that should have seen at least a million people vaccinated in this week, all interrupted.

"Of greatest concern are the disruptions in pharmaceutical supplies and our oxygen supplies. Afrox was damaged yesterday, and we know oxygen is critical and central for survival for Covid-19 cases," Abdool Karim added.  

Conundrum in the ANC

Also at the briefing was the SACP's first deputy secretary, Solly Mapaila, who said the crisis within the ANC had created a dilemma for the country. 

"We also want to make a call to the ANC, our leading partner in the alliance, that the crisis inside the ANC needs urgent attention because that crisis has now created a serious dilemma for our country.

READ | Zuma's 'private spy' Thulan Dlomo a prime suspect for unrest

"In other words, the ANC itself has become a major conundrum that must be solved, so it has to respond to this problem urgently in order to respond to the general crisis that we now face as a country." 

Mapaila called on the government to establish a special task force to improve police response time during the unrest, saying:

We may have to call on our government to establish a special task force to improve the pace in which they respond to the organisation of this criminal enterprise, particularly this counter-revolution.

He continued: "I don't think it was normal that when police were called, they took so long to respond, even that must be investigated, particularly in some parts of KZN."

Meanwhile in a statement read out during the briefing, Defend our Democracy said former president Jacob Zuma's supports and members of his family were responsible for the unrest. 

"Let us be absolutely clear, the responsibility for what is happening lies at the door of the supporters of the former president, including members of his family who have been blatantly making inflammatory statements encouraging hooliganism and violence, spreading fake news and claiming that this is mass-based support for former president Jacob Zuma," the organisation added.

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