Scientists warned on Thursday that South Africa could see up to 50,000 coronavirus deaths and around 3 million infections by the end of the year as the southern hemisphere winter leads to a higher rate of infection, reported Reuters.
The projections were made by a group of academics and health experts advising the government. They assume that the government will ease tough lockdown restrictions from June, as President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.
The South African government had announced restrictions in March that also included a complete ban on tobacco and alcohol sales. The curbs have been credited with slowing the spread of the virus.
According to the scientists and statisticians hired by the health ministry to model the spread of the coronavirus and help in planning over the outbreak, the country could see between 35,000 and 50,000 coronavirus deaths by November.
“We haven’t really crushed the curve,” said one of the experts, Harry Moultrie, during a televised presentation. “We also have some significant concerns that because of the focus on COVID-19, this may compromise other areas like HIV and TB.”
The report and model, which consider best and worst scenarios, see as many 3 million possible coronavirus cases by November. It estimates that the demand for hospital beds could peak at 45,000, around ten times the current intensive care bed availability.
Notably, South Africa already has the highest number of infections and deaths in the African continent, with more than 19,000 identified cases and 369 deaths.
On Thursday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced the country recorded 30 new coronavirus-related deaths.
“We wish to express our condolences to the loved ones of the deceased and thank the healthcare workers who treated these patients,” Mkhize said in a statement.
The health minister confirmed 1,134 more COVID-19 infections, bringing the total toll in South Africa to 19,137.
COVID-19, which originated in China’s Wuhan last December, has spread to at least 188 countries and regions so far.