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South Africa facing brutal second wave

Caregivers, with their feet in the water after intense rains, caring for Covid-19 patients sheltered by a simple metal structure in a parking lot. Posted on an Instagram account since deleted, the images have become the symbol of the new health crisis affecting South Africa. Overwhelmed by a record number of seriously ill patients, Steve-Biko Hospital in Pretoria has no choice but to take on new cases in tents initially intended for triage of arrivals.

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“The increase in the number of seriously ill patients, who need intensive care and sometimes arrive in groups, puts serious pressure on the establishment”, recognized the Department of Health of Gauteng Province in a statement announcing the installation of two additional tents. Like (him) the Steve-Biko Hospital, more and more establishments are reaching their maximum capacity in the provinces most affected by the second wave of Covid-19 which is hitting South Africa, reviving fears of a lack of beds, oxygen and protective equipment.

“When she arrived, it was madness, we were taken aback” A nurse at the Chris-Hani-Baragwanath hospital, in Soweto

The magnitude of the new wave has already greatly exceeded that of the first wave. While the peak of new daily infections stood at 13,900 in July 2020, South Africa, the country most affected by the pandemic on the continent, has regularly exceeded the threshold of 20,000 new infections per day since the start. of the year.

On January 13, the authorities announced the death of 800 sick people, another sad record. Officially, 36,000 people have died from Covid-19 in South Africa since the start of the pandemic, but the curve of the evolution of the number of natural deaths shows a surplus of 80,000 deaths compared to previous years. At the end of December, it indicated that the number of natural deaths had practically doubled.

“Full hospitals”

Led by a new variant of the virus, more contagious, the second wave hit the country at an unexpected speed. “When she arrived, it was madness, we were taken aback”, says a caregiver from Chris-Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. If there are still beds available in this establishment, fear once again seizes caregivers. “Those who work in the Covid-19 units are protected but we have patients with the virus in other departments where the staff do not have the appropriate equipment”, she confides on condition of anonymity while hospital staff are prohibited from speaking in the press.

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