President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday urged South Africans to keep a distance from their elderly parents and grandparents so as to save their lives as the COVID-19 pandemic kept spreading.
Coronavirus can infect anyone, but older people are among those at highest risk of getting severely ill and possibly dying, Ramaphosa said in his weekly address to the nation.
“Sadly, there have been a number of coronavirus outbreaks at old age homes and care centres, resulting in a number of deaths,” he said.
People with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, renal disease, asthma and chronic respiratory disease are more vulnerable to developing severe complications and dying from coronavirus, Ramaphosa said, citing data from the Department of Health.
According to new research published by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, a third of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 had at least one co-morbidity.
“This is a significant concern in a country such as ours that also has high prevalence of HIV and tuberculosis, the leading cause of natural deaths in South Africa in 2019,” Ramaphosa said.
Additionally, more than 4.5 million South Africans have diabetes, a figure that has doubled since 2017, according to Ramaphosa.
In Western Cape alone, diabetes is a co-morbidity in over half of all COVID-19 deaths, he said.
In some provinces, including Gauteng and Western Cape, testing is being offered to people with co-morbidities such as diabetes whether they show coronavirus symptoms or not, Ramaphosa added.
“This smart approach to screening and testing is part of our effort to limit infections among those most vulnerable,” he said.
As part of the national effort to contain coronavirus, protecting the general population from becoming infected must be matched by efforts to protect people who are at greater risk, Ramaphosa stressed.
“Difficult though it may be, we should not expose our elderly mothers and fathers to the virus through social visits.
“Let us keep in touch with them by phone or video messaging,” he said.