Dr Olive Shisana’s plan to look East and advise President Cyril Ramaphosa to adopt China’s model to deal with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, is behind the declaration of a lockdown in South Africa.
Shisana, who headed the Human Sciences Research Council for many years after she left her position as head of the department of health, made it clear in the “Covid-19 March 2020” report that the lockdown was influenced by how China handled and managed to stop the spread of the outbreak.
Shisana, who is currently the social policy special advisor to Ramaphosa, indicated that the country took lessons from China, Italy, Singapore and South Korea. In the document it was clear that China’s success influenced South Africa’s decision.
“China’s ‘lockdown’ approach has proven to be very successful in reducing new cases, by reducing interactions between people that maintained the chains of transmission. China has now reported no new cases for two consecutive days,” the report said.
It said one of the most significant lessons to be learnt from the experiences of China and Italy is that the coronavirus pandemic can grow very rapidly and overwhelm healthcare services, leading to large numbers of deaths.
Singapore and South Korea were able to avoid this situation by interventions that “flattened the curve” and mitigated the exponential growth phase of the epidemic so that the healthcare service was able to cope with the demand for medical care.
The mitigation in those countries involved the basic elements of infectious disease control – screening, diagnosing, isolating and contact tracing.
The advice to Ramaphosa emphasised the importance of China’s approach. The report said it was suggested that people’s interactions must be reduced.
“In this respect, entire communities will need to buy-in to the need to prioritise contributions and actions ‘in the common interests of the country’.”