South Africa warned of COVID surge amid civil unrest

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Looters outside a shopping centre alongside a burning barricade in Durban, South Africa, Monday July 12, 2021. Police say six people are dead and more than 200 have been arrested amid escalating violence during rioting that broke out following the imprisonment of South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma. (AP Photo/Andre Swart)

Wisdom Deji-Folutile

Health experts have warned that the ongoing protests and civil unrest in South Africa could see the continent’s worst-hit country suffer a surge in COVID cases.

Recall that earlier this week, Af24news reported that violent protests had broken out in parts of South Africa after Jacob Zuma was handed a prison sentence.

Now, the World Health Organisation’s Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, has said that the rioting in the country may “exacerbate the situation of a very severe wave”.

“The government has to brace itself, and we in the WHO will be preparing to see an increase in the cases again,” he said on Thursday.

The civil unrest in the country has left at least 117 dead, as rioters razed cars, buildings and looted shopping malls and warehouses in some areas.

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South African virologist Barry Schoub, a member of a scientific panel advising the health ministry, on Friday warned of the state of the pandemic in KwaZulu-Natal province, which has been the heart of the unrest.

“KZN is on the upward phase of the epidemic curve,” he said.

South Africa has the highest tally of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Africa, recording more than 2.2 million infections and nearly 66,000 deaths.

In the past 24 hours, the toll has risen by 16,400 cases.

The country also recorded 377 deaths in that time.

South Africa’s health system has continued to struggle with a lack of vaccines, public fatigue with anti-Coronavirus measures and the arrival of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus.