For two months now, we have become accustomed to waiting for the latest COVID-19 figures to be released every evening by the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize. While many observers might be alarmed at the number of infections in the Western Cape (WC) compared to the rest of South Africa, this is actually positive news.
As of 17 May 2020, the WC had conducted 90 750 tests or 20% of the total number of tests that have been done nationwide. Simply put, since the WC comprises 10 – 11% of the total population, this means that the province is testing at twice the rate as the rest of the country.
Between 13 500 and 15 600 people per million population have been tested, a figure that will improve every day if the province maintains its average of 12 000 tests per week. This puts the WC on a par with South Korea (14 693), a country that has been globally praised for its testing response, and approaching the Netherlands (16 809) and Sweden (17 589).
The World Health Organisation is clear. The more you test, the more cases you will find. But what is essential is not just testing randomly but strategically. The WC has adopted this thinking with its selective hotspot testing strategy, which will enable the government to make informed decisions based on meaningfully robust data.
To date, 96% of people who have contracted COVID-19 in the WC have recovered. This is significantly higher than the global recovery figure of 85% and even better than the recovery figures for Europe (82%) and North America (81%). This means that residents are getting the care that is required and the province is geared up to deal with the increasing number of infections that are inevitable as the country opens up.
People often praise the health care systems of countries in Europe and North America. But when it comes to COVID-19, the figures show that there is no better place to be than the Western Cape. Instead of being fearful, WC residents should be hopeful and reassured.