Gift of the Givers founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, has warned that government statistics do not reflect the real impact that the new Covid-19 Delta variant is having on South Africa.
“The situation is far worse than we understand,” he said. “A large number of patients, anything from 50% to 90% refuse to test.
“These are related to economic challenges, stigma, and anxiety associated with a positive result.
“Laboratory ‘hopping’ is a [another] new phenomenon among those who test positive, repeating it at other facilities in the hope that the initial result was incorrect.”
As of Saturday, the Department of Health reported 17 958 new cases of the coronavirus, which represents a positivity rate of 25.6%.
A further 157 Covid-19-related deaths have been reported, bringing total the total number of fatalities to 59 778.
Sooliman is appealing to every person in SA to be responsible and protect the country’s fragile healthcare system.
The current Covid-19 crisis has left both private and public hospitals in Gauteng filled to capacity.
“There is neither space nor sufficient oxygen points at emergency departments,” Sooliman said.
“Oxygen concentrators are in critical short supply as patients opt for home-based care, as an alternative means of survival and out of fear, anxiety and loneliness associated with hospital admission.
“The shortage of nurses, general practitioners and specialists, from various disciplines, compounds an already fragile health system.”
Sooliman, whose Pietermartizburg-based organisation has been providing water and equipment for hospitals in Gauteng, believes that the adage, ‘prevention is better than cure’, has never been more relevant.
“Responsible citizenry among all 60 million in this country is key,” he added. “The sacrifice being requested is minimal and temporary for a sublime purpose: the saving of life, which in essence could be that of your spouse, child, parent, neighbour, teacher, health care worker or fellow South African.
“The greater the compliance, the faster the wave passes, as the virus loses a transport medium and attachment to a new host to mutate further.
“The more they mutate, the greater the need to modify vaccines.”
Sooliman has advised people to avoid travelling to and from Gauteng, the epicentre of the third wave of the coronavirus, or any other infected area, except for emergency.
“Halt all family visits, baby showers, parties, weddings, irrespective whether five or 50 are in attendance. Just postpone, it’s temporary,” he added.
“Avoid alcohol or any intoxicating substance that will impair judgement or mindfulness.
“It takes a small slip and Delta [variant] will strike with devastating effect.
“This strain is highly virulent, rapidly transmissible and deadly, targeting all ages including babies, the superfit, the vaccinated and even those that have no co-morbidities.”
Sooliman also advises people to shop responsibly, keep a safe distance, avoid congestion, mask and sanitise. They should also ensure they have good ventilation at home, in the car and at the work place.
Restaurants and eating places also need to ensure good ventilation or to encourage outdoor dining. This would protect both lives and livelihoods, he added.
Healthcare workers should take precautions in congested and poorly ventilated tea and rest facilities at hospitals; and visits to bereaved families and numbers at funerals have to be restricted.
“This behaviour is totally foreign to our nature as compassionate, family oriented social beings, but ironically it is compassionate in its own right as it protects other family members from succumbing,” Sooliman said.
“We’ve experienced situations where up to 18 family members are infected in one house and where three or more family members, including couples, pass on within days of each other.
“Preventing heartache and grief, largely and practically is in our own hands through responsible citizenry.”
Even those, who have had a vaccine need to take precautions, Sooliman said, saying often people take greater risks if they feel protected.
“In the case of vaccination it is the mistaken belief that having been vaccinated protects the individual against getting infected and prevents transmission to others. All precautions as for the non-vaccinated apply,” he added.