Friday marks exactly a year since the first case of the novel coronavirus was first detected in South Africa on March 5 last year.
“Exactly a year ago I had the unenvious position of briefing the President that we had our first COVID-19,” said Health Minister Zweli Mkhize Friday when sending his condolences to those who died from the virus.
The first patient to test positive for COVID-19 was a 38-year-old man who had travelled with his wife and 10 other people to Italy.
Since then a total of 50,462 people have succumbed to the deadly virus, with 96 deaths recorded over the last 24 hours.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the co-chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, said “this epidemic became real” when the first case was announced.
“Before that we were talking about it as something was happening elsewhere … but for the first time on the 5th of March that realization hit,” he said on radio.
Karim admitted that the second wave which was fueled by the variant termed 501Y.V2 was more devastating. The variant was detected in the Nelson Mandela bay region where a high number of daily fatalities and hospital admissions were recorded.
The country began its vaccination campaign in February as new infections were declining daily. So far, 92,029 medical workers have been inoculated.
Millions of vaccines are expected to arrive this month.
“This past year was a difficult year. Our healthcare resource couldn’t cater to the pandemic. The virus spread so much faster in the second wave and we couldn’t cope with,” said South African Medical Association Chairperson Angelique Coetzee. “We need to draw lessons from the first and second waves and prepare for the third wave and other health disasters.”