Coronavirus News Africa

Government holding back some ‘fluid’ Covid-19 modelling data to avoid panic, stigma – report



Government
is shying away from releasing some Covid-19 modelling and projections data to
avoid panic in communities and possible stigma, saying the projections were
fluid and not “Gospel truth”, according to a Sunday report.

According to the Sunday Times, experts
believed that limiting the flow of scientific data on the pandemic meant that
government would be making decisions on the reopening of the economy based on
data that was not known by citizens.

But according to Presidency
spokesperson Khusela Diko, government was withholding models to avoid having them
being known to be the “Gospel truth”, the Sunday publication
reported.

Diko told the publication that
the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had said the
projections were fluid, and that government did not want to put out the
information when it may change.

They do, however, acknowledge the
need for people to feel they can make informed decisions.

Diko was quoted as saying they
“need to allow people to feel more in control”. That was something
that was not being done as well as they could, “because when people are
armed with information, they feel like they are taking charge of their
lives”, rather than just receiving info from government, she added.

News24 reported earlier this week
that according to one of government’s leading epidemiologists, Dr Harry
Moultrie, there was “considerable” uncertainty over the spread and
the effectiveness of the state and people’s interventions to slow the spread of
the virus.

Moultrie is also involved in
mapping and modelling the spread of the coronavirus.

Moultrie said it was expected
that parts of the country’s healthcare system would be overwhelmed as a result
of an expected “rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases over the
next few months”.

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By Saturday, South Africa had 9
420 coronavirus cases and 186 deaths, with the Western Cape being the biggest
contributor, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced at a media briefing.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has in
the past weeks visited the CSIR’s offices in Pretoria where the Department of
Health’s data centre is set up.

Analysis of coronavirus data
reported by the Department of Health has already showed that increases in cases
have already begun.

News24 reported that the
chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee Professor Salim Abdool Karim
said this week that the increases in cases was not yet a cause for concern.

On Friday, the country saw its
biggest one-day spike in new cases, hitting 663 cases.

Moultrie previously said there
would be expected epidemic growth in the country as many return back to work
after the easing of the lockdown and opening of some parts of the economy from
1 May.

“There,
however, remains considerable uncertainty regarding both biological aspects of
SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the quantitative effectiveness of interventions by
the government and individuals to decrease transmission,” Moultrie
previously said.

 – Compiled by Sesona Ngqakamba

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