South Africa – media still distorting reality

August 4th, 2020

South Africa has been widely discussed on this blog, regarding the impact of COVID19 on the country, despite one of the most severe lockdowns anywhere in the world. It is true that the health system has been under pressure recently, but it is difficult to ascertain whether that is due to a backlog of non-COVID19 cases attending hospital when lockdown was partially relaxed. A BBC article on July 15th paints a very extreme picture of the challenges faced by the health service with striking staff, utterly inadequate resources and extremely dirty environments. It is possible that COVID19 positive patients are attending the hospitals and spreading the infection, as happened in the UK’s care homes.

The collateral damage due to lockdown in South Africa has been extreme, with millions thrown into poverty and in some areas potential starvation. However, the lockdown strategy is still the dominant policy and even now, on July 24th, the government has changed course on opening schools and is re-imposing other lockdown measures, including curfews. As of July 23rd, South Africa had 5,940 deaths in a population of 60 million, far less than most European countries. Even if more cases are being diagnosed due to more testing, the overall mortality rate is still relatively low, challenging the suggestion that things are getting worse again.

On August 2nd the BBC has reported that the cases in South Africa are now over ½ million and with 8,153 deaths. So, it seems that things are getting much worse. The article said that the lockdown helped to slow the spread of the virus. Maybe it’s the opposite and the lockdown simply delayed the spread and achieved nothing. The WHO was even reported in the same article as saying the South Africa experience is a precursor of what will happen in the rest of the continent. More conjecture and propaganda from the WHO perhaps. Are we really sure that the current mortality rate is really due to COVID19 or as has been seen in many other countries, the death figures are being exaggerated due to the numbers of co-morbidities and false positive tests. As stated before, dying WITH Covid and not OF Covid. What is the truth?

Every year, the winter months in the southern hemisphere are cold, this year in South Africa, temperatures are below zero. During the annual flu season, people die of the flu and pneumonia. Do these deaths account for some of the total ascribed to COVID19? Also, as with many countries, including those in Europe, the flu season can put hospitals under serious pressure. Italy, like South Africa, was an example of a country with very capable front-line medical facilities, but under funded and stretched to the limit during the flu season. This is not an unusual experience. Many of the deaths now in South Africa may be a reflection of the challenges in the health system compounded by the impact of having locked the whole country down for two months.

More focus is now being put on the factors which may predispose a country to have a higher number of cases and mortalities, and why some individuals may be more likely to succumb to get the virus while others don’t. This type of research and analysis is vital in understanding the complexities of this pandemic. It is too simplistic to assume that the virus would have the same effect on all populations. Two British epidemiologists discussed the issues on Lockdowntv, and concluded that this so-called “pandemic” has in fact behaved more like a normal “seasonal” epidemic; it has affected predominantly only a certain group of people and the peak of mortalities was seen over a fairly short period of time.

The following is a list of possible reasons for the high numbers of mortalities in relation to their demographics:

  • The number of elderly people in care homes in relation to the number of elderly people in a particular country: higher in Europe and the USA, lower in India and Africa.
  • Government strategy toward protecting people in care homes, woefully inadequate in the UK.
  • The crisis precipitated by the lack of care workers and support given to care homes. (This was seen in particular in Italy, Spain, USA (New York), UK and Sweden).
  • The intensity of the strategy of using ventilators which have likely killed 80% of people put on them. This is possibly more in countries with higher number of ventilators available . ref our article
  • The amount of possible false positive tests and “probable cases” attributed to COVID19 when it is possible they weren’t positive. (This has been seen in particular in the USA due to the CARES ACT funding of hospital, more funding for COVID19 cases than pneumonia for example.
  • The types of medications given. The demonstrated clinical success of hydroxychloroquine was denied in many countries and WHO policy has been that it should not be used after some highly criticized trials seemed to show it was dangerous.
  • The degree of existing ill health in some countries, especially the elderly with co-morbidities, including obesity. This may be a factor in the USA where the immune system of many people is highly compromised due to poor diet, junk food and the resultant metabolic syndrome, along with high levels of pharmaceutical medication.
  • The amount of specific medications that may create a greater susceptibility to serious symptoms of COVID19. This may include ACE inhibitor drugs that are given for hypertension and diabetes and statins for cholesterol. (Elderly people in the USA generally take far more prescribed medication than in other countries).
  • A lack of vitamin D in elderly people in Northern Europe in the winter. Also lack of Vitamin C and Zinc, deficiency of which have been shown to increase the risk of a poor outcome.

Comments: The situation is different in each country but the fact remains that COVID19 is not as lethal as has been reported in the media and the total number of deaths is, after 8 months, still within the range of a bad flu season. Young and healthy people are very unlikely to suffer serious symptoms of the virus (unlike the flu) and therefore focus should be on caring for the vulnerable. A vaccine is not necessary to protect the vast majority of people. Money would be better spent on preparation in care homes and hospitals in case another wave comes in the winter, rather than spending billions on drugs and vaccines that may or may not work.

In the USA and Europe, the high mortality rates may be due to weakened immune systems, in turn directly related to issues of diet, obesity, lack of exercise, over medication, lack of Vitamin D after a long dark winter and an inability to take care of the most vulnerable. An indictment of the quality of life in the “developed” world. For the rest of the world, the response to COVID19 has, indirectly, created far greater issues for them to deal with.

It is the winter in Southern Africa and each year people die of flu, pneumonia and other conditions. Millions live in poor conditions, creating challenging situations for their health and well-being. COVID19 seems to be being blown out of all proportion to fulfil the agenda pushed by the WHO and others. Millions have suffered from the privations of a rigid lockdown, in a country that could not support its people and now it’s paying the price for this.