The State of National Disaster will probably be extended this festive season, despite Covid-19 testing data and the accuracy of the actual deaths and infections recorded in South Africa being questioned.
On Monday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) acknowledged that testing data had not been made public.
“This is due to data sets being amended to remove tests from other countries, duplicate tests and tests conducted for quality assurance. Original reporting will resume shortly and we appreciate your patience in this regard,” the NICD said on Twitter.
On Tuesday evening, 2,295 new cases were reported by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, bringing the country’s official confirmed total to 792,299.
#COVID19 Statistics in SA as at 01 December.
Use the COVID Alert SA app to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community. Start using this privacy preserving app today. Add your phone to the fight! Download the Covid Alert SA app now! https://t.co/8YKEqaiiRF pic.twitter.com/LaEnF0jTt0
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) December 1, 2020
Another 109 deaths were also reported, making the official death toll linked to the coronavirus 21,644.
However, testing data was again not disclosed.
State of Disaster extension
In response to the data, Rob Hutchinson, MD of DearSA – a nonprofit organisation established to promote and encourage transparent governance – said a proper response to Covid-19 could not be formed because no one knew what the actual picture looked like.
“That’s exactly why we approached the court so the data used to justify the lockdown be put on record. The stats are based on predictable models and not on current stats,” Hutchinson said.
He highlighted that the current State of National Disaster was originally instituted on what might happen, and not on actual data at the time.
“The [State of Disaster] will definitely be extended,” Hutchinson said.
On 11 November, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced another extension of the National State of Disaster during his address to the nation. It is now set to expire on 15 December and will, in all likelihood, be extended for another month.
DearSA brought an application against Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, seeking an order to declare the lockdown extensions unlawful.
The case was set to be heard in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday, 1 November.
However, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize applied to intervene and oppose the application. As a result, the matter has been postponed to grant the department more time to respond.
Pandemics ~ Data & Analytics (Panda), a multidisciplinary group seeking to inform policy, applied to be admitted in the litigation as a friend of the court.
In their founding affidavit, the group said that their research had found that Covid-19 is far less dangerous than originally thought.
“A high percentage of the population is not susceptible. The risks that Covid-19 poses to children are negligible and for the bulk of the population, the risks are in line with other respiratory viruses,” the group said in a statement.
They added that the South African healthcare system coped with the initial coronavirus outbreak and that it should be able to cope with subsequent “flare-ups”.
Both Panda and DearSA are opposed to lockdowns, with the former saying that these measures have “systematically failed to manifest beneficial impact on epidemic curves”.
However, there are actual severe economic, medical and educational consequences that affect the population, including their life expectancy.
Panda founder and a fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, Nick Hudson, has been a vocal voice questioning government’s methodology when it comes to Covid-19 statistics and how these figures have influenced the state’s response.
On Sunday he tweeted that the State of Disaster “has provided the legal air cover for what has surely been the worst public health policy in history.
“We managed to achieve, simultaneously, among the world’s worst age-based Covid-19 mortality, the deepest and most permanent economic damage, & the most corruption along the way. The eschewing of pre-Covid-19 science, modelling atrocities, pseudoscientific school closures & mask mandates, testing orgies and service denial that have featured in other countries’ embarrassments were present, but we added local colour…
“Our 245-day lockdown has caused such damage to our developing economy, plunging so many into poverty and curtailing so many basic public health and education efforts, that a decade of incremental mortality is certain to overshadow the relatively minor threat posed by the virus.”