The Impact Of The Coronavirus
Bona|June 2020
When COVID-19 hit South Africa, it came as no surprise that the virus would impact vulnerable communities such as townships and rural areas the hardest. The frequently asked questions since then have been whether the government has given enough information and resources to the people in disadvantaged areas or not. Everson Luhanga investigates further.
Everson Luhanga

The South African government has been targeting densely populated hotspots countrywide, with a potentially high infection rate, by initially deploying 28 000 healthcare workers to screen and test communities. Dr Louis Reynolds from the People’s Health Movement says the coronavirus is more likely to spread rapidly in both townships and rural areas. He further states that the treatment for other diseases such as Tuberculosis may be more difficult to access.

THE EFFECTS ON THE DISADVANTAGED

Although it will not be the same in all areas, COVID-19 was generally always expected to spread more rapidly in the townships because of the people living in crowded conditions. “The key hygiene practices of frequent hand washing, physical distancing and wearing masks are more difficult for a number of reasons, including crowded households, inadequate water and sanitation as well as high levels of reliance on crowded transport in taxis and buses among others. It is more difficult to have access to healthcare in rural areas where people live far from the nearest facility.” Visiting Professor of Health Sciences at the Durban University of Technology, Professor Morgan Chetty, says hospitals in the rural areas are ill-equipped to deal with epidemic outbreaks such as COVID-19. “Health systems in most of rural South Africa were fragile even before COVID-19.” He adds that South Africa is on the road to restructure and re-engineer its health system, but with the unprecedented onslaught of the virus, its health systems generally will be overwhelmed. “We have seen that even in first world countries, there are bed, ICU critical care specialists and ventilator shortages,” he says. The focus during this pandemic in places such as the overcrowded townships is to test, treat and track/trace. “However, we have shortages of test kits, swabs and personal protective equipment. This is not just a rural issue; it is also an issue in metropolitan areas. It is a global issue, too,” he adds.

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