Cape Town becomes African Covid-19 hotspot with 15% of caseload

By Nerea Gonzalez

Johannesburg, Jun 3 (efe-epa).- South Africa’s Western Cape, home to the tourist hub of Cape Town, has become Africa’s Covid-19 hotspot with 15 percent of the continent’s caseload.

The Cape Town area, which sits on the Atlantic Ocean with the majestic Table Mountain overlooking the city, has become an epicentre for the pandemic in Africa despite the rate of infection advancing at a much slower pace than in the rest of the world.

This has been, to a large extent, thanks to the drastic measures taken at a very early stage by many African governments, but despite these efforts, the number of infections in the Western Cape is surging.

“It is difficult to specify how it will advance. What we do know will happen, given the situation in many Western Cape hospitals already, many of which are already full is what has happened in other countries: that we are going to struggle to cope for a few months,” Laura Triviño-Durán, medical coordinator of the Belgian section of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in South Africa, tells Efe.

The Western Cape province — with a population of six million people — has recorded 23,583 cases, 562 deaths and 11,431 recovered persons as of Tuesday, according to official data.

There have been a total of 155,000 cases and 4,350 across the entire African continent, which has a population of 1.2 billion people. This means one in seven African Covid-19 patients resides in the Cape Western.

In South Africa alone, the Western Cape represents around two-thirds of the total number of national patients (35,812) and a considerable number of deaths in the country (705).

When comparing South Africa with other countries on the continent, only Egypt presents data similar to that recorded in the Western Cape alone, although the mortality rate in the Arab country is double.

Populous nations like Nigeria, with 200 million inhabitants, Algeria and Morocco, have less than half the number of infections.

However, it is worth noting that the Cape of Good Hope is the most widely tested area in all of Africa, with some 165,000 tests to date.

The testing in the South African region is double that performed in the entire country of Nigeria, even though the World Health Organization has warned that mass testing is key to curbing the spread of the virus.

Experts leading the response in South Africa believe the situation in the Cape Town area could be a matter of chance and speed.

Predictive models suggest that the outbreak in the Western Cape will peak in July meaning the region would become the first in Africa to reach the “eye of the storm” with at least 9,300 deaths.

Infections in the rest of the country are expected to peak in August.

“We believe that there is a factor of luck, or bad luck, in the fact that there are so many infections. There have been several centers with a lot of transmissions and many of those centers have been in neighbourhoods where social distancing is practically impossible,” says Triviño-Durán.

The Western Cape is a rich area (in South Africa only Gauteng surpasses it), and a hive of commercial and touristic activity.

But it is also a very unequal region where high-end private services and large mansions (mostly owned by white people) contrast with the precariousness of informal neighbourhoods and former ghettos that surround Cape Town making it one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

One of the hardest-hit areas by the epidemic is the shantytown of Khayelitsha.

“But I want to be very honest with you now, we simply cannot fight this pandemic alone,” Alan Winde, Western Cape Premier recently said.

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