Researcher explains how early SA lockdown has saved at least 20,000 lives

Comparative trajectory analysis from the day of 100th infection shows SA on 11,000 cases, while UK at that point on 161,000

Cape Talk, 14 May 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa during his address to South Africa on Wednesday night said research shows the early lockdown measures may have led to the country's Covid-19 death toll sitting at 8 times lower than many other countries facing the pandemic.

According to researchers at the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform (Krisp), South Africa's travel ban and lockdown measures have potentially saved 20 000 lives so far, when comparing the data from other countries.

Refilwe Moloto speaks to bioinformatician and director Professor Tulio de Oliveira

'Krisp does not do modelling, explains. We analyse data in real-time. What does this mean? We have a team of 10 mathematicians in bioinformatics and informatics that are commonly analysing data that is published by the government in South Africa and other countries'.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira, Director - Krisp

'We do that by comparing apples with apples, putting the trajectory of the virus in the same level between countries... One of the key markers used is counting the number of days after the 100th infection.'

'This shows how the number of confirmed cases in South Africa compares to other countries, based on days since each country reached 100 confirmed cases ... South Africa at that point is sitting on 11,000 cases. The United Kingdon at that same date of the epidemic had 161,000 cases.'

'Italy on that same date point had 172,000 cases and the United States 965,000 cases.So we would expect by today, if nothing had been done, South Africa would have close to 160,000 infections.'

He suggests possible reasons for these differences in infection numbers, saying most countries implemented lockdowns, though some have been more effective than others.

'At the same stage, since the outbreak, the United Kingdom had close to 26,000 deaths.'

'The Western Cape death numbers are higher than the rest of the country. What is happening in Cape Town and the Western Cape is the process we describe as localised outbreaks. So, for example, we are quite aware, working with Stellenbosch University colleagues analysing data, there seem to be localised outbreaks there in old age homes, shopping centres, police stations.'

He says that is how the virus spreads and socially responsible behaviour plays a big role.

Start thinking as 'we' as a community.

Listen to the interview:

News date: 2020-05-14


KRISP has been created by the coordinated effort of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the South African Medical Research Countil (SAMRC).

Location: K-RITH Tower Building
Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, UKZN
719 Umbilo Road, Durban, South Africa.
Director: Prof. Tulio de Oliveira