Virus cases up sharply in South Africa, India as inequality stings

Virus cases up sharply in South Africa, India as inequality stings

Saturday, July 11, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) — South Africa's confirmed coronavirus cases have doubled in just two weeks to a quarter-million, andIndiaon Saturday saw its biggest daily spike as its infections passed 800,000.

The surging cases are raising sharp concerns about unequal treatment in the pandemic, as the wealthy hoard medical equipment and use private hospitals and the poor crowd into overwhelmed public facilities.

Globally more than 12.5 million people have been infected by the virus and over 560,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the pandemic's true toll is much higher due to testing shortages, poor data collection in some nations and other issues.

Some of the worst-affected countries are among the world's most unequal.South Africaleads them all on that measure, with the pandemic exposing the gap in care.

In Johannesburg, the epicentre of South Africa's outbreak, badly needed oxygen concentrators that help COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe are hard to find as private businesses and individuals are buying them up, a public health specialist volunteering at a field hospital, Lynne Wilkinson, told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, South Africa's public hospitals are short on medical oxygen — and they are now seeing a higher proportion of deaths than private ones, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases says.

South Africa now has more than 250,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including more than 3,800 deaths. To complicate matters, the country's troubled power utility has announced new electricity cuts in the dead of winter as a cold front brings freezing weather. Many of the country's urban poor live in shacks of scrap metal and wood.

And in Kenya, some have been outraged by a local newspaper report that says several governors have installed intensive care unit equipment in their homes. The country lost its first doctor to COVID-19 this week.

“The welfare, occupational safety & health of frontline workers is a non-negotiable minimum!!” the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union tweeted after her death. On Saturday, the union and other medical groups urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to implement a promised compensation package to ease the “anxiety and fear that has now gripped health care workers".

More than 8,000 health workers across Africa have been infected, half of them in South Africa. The continent of 1.3 billion has the world's lowest levels of health staffing and more than 550,000 cases, and the pandemic is reaching “full speed," the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Many parts of the world are facing fresh waves of infections as they try to reopen their economies.

In India, which reported a new daily high of 27,114 cases on Saturday, nearly a dozen states have imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas. Cases jumped from 600,000 to more than 800,000 in nine days. People arepacking India's public hospitals as many are unable to afford private onesthat generally uphold higher standards of care.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged top officials to improve infection testing and tracking, especially in states with high positivity rates.


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