Prof. Abdool Karim: "People shouldn’t think we are going back to the old normal"

Coronavirus tag on top of medical table. Image by Freepik
Coronavirus tag on top of medical table. Image by Freepik

While South Africans have progressively eased into level 2 with less restrictions and more freedom to move around, there have been some concerns about the country's readiness to move to level 1. 

Dr Zweli Mkhize, South Africa's minister of health, recently revealed that the country has passed the COVID-19 "storm" and that the recovery rate is currently sitting at 89%. While the minister has cautioned citizens to continue to adhere to the lockdown regulations to prevent a second wave of infection, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of the ministerial advisory committee on COVID-19, expressed concern over a further easing of regulations in a recent interview with 702.

Read More: Lockdown Level 1: Ramaphosa to hold high level meetings, discuss possible easing of regulations

“The key issue is that the spark that could set us back revolves around super-spreading events, largely around mass gatherings,” he said.

“Where you've got a large gathering of people, it's not always easy to implement all your social distancing and mask-wearing and so on. In those settings, we have to reduce the risk of super-spreading events." 

He particularly highlighted sporting events and nightclubs as potential high-risk places for super-spreading especially if they are not opened in a careful way.

Prof. Abdool Karim also added that the things that were critical at the start of this pandemic are no longer the focal point now. 

Read More: EXPLAINER | Lockdown Level 1: Everything we know so far, and what restrictions could fall away

"Issues like the curve [and] restrictions on alcohol have served their purpose. They were put in to protect hospitals, we don't have an issue with hospital space and beds at the moment. Those are less critical at this point and not needed,” he explained.

“For example, there is no reason why restaurants should not be open even though they carry risk, as long as we have certain restrictions like the number that can be there, the distancing that is maintained between staff, etc. We are now in the post-Covid new normal. It is not the old normal and people shouldn’t think we are going back to the old normal. We will have to find a way to adapt to the new normal." 

According to News24, level 1 would mostly have to do with opening up more economic activities and would most likely keep the restriction and rules around gatherings the same. 

5 things you can do to avoid a second wave of infection in SA

Last week, Discovery CEO held a webinar outlining some key insights on the progression of the pandemic in SA so far. In that same webinar, he offered five steps that South Africans can take to continue their effort to avert a second wave of infection. These included:

Continue adherence to evidence-based, non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, mask-wearing and general hygiene protocols –all critical to preventing a second wave of infection.

Embrace technologies designed to optimise our health in the time of COVID-19 - from virtual doctors’ consultations to use of the National Department of Health’s recently launched Bluetooth contact-tracing app, COVID Alert SA. This app allows us to understand our risk of exposure and to keep others safe. “Thorough contact tracing is critical to our safe return to work and reopening of the economy,” says Dr Noach. “Discovery has been delighted to play a pro bono role in the development of this app in partnership with our National Department of Health.”

Enact remote monitoring protocols to protect high-risk people who contract COVID-19, and significantly better their healthcare outcomes.

Engage in physical activity to improve our risk profile should we contract COVID-19.

Ensure that we access healthcare when we need it, that we proactively resume routine care for chronic illnesses and undertake regular cancer screening tests.