No evidence of expected mass Covid-19 deaths, Newsline

CONTRARY to the predictions of mass deaths due to Covid-19 on the continent, Africans seem to be twice as likely to experience no symptoms from the virus, according to an early analysis by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) African branch.

More than 80% of Africans who were infected were asymptomatic, a preliminary analysis suggests, compared with 40%-50% elsewhere in the world. This finding was released at a media briefing by the African branch of the WHO on Thursday.

“This is reinforced by the fact that we have not seen health systems overwhelmed by very large numbers of cases, and we’re also not seeing evidence of excess mortality due to Covid-19,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa.

While some of the uncertainty is due to low testing rates in African countries, that does not account for all of the difference – and fatality rates have also been significantly lower in Africa than in Europe and North America.

“In addition, there is no evidence of miscalculation of death,” said Moeti.

One hundred and eighty-two new infections were reported in the Western Cape yesterday, according to an update by Premier Alan Winde, with 612 people still hospitalised of which 99 are in ICU or high care. This brings the total confirmed cases in the province to 109 545, though the vast majority of these are no longer active. Updated numbers of deaths and active cases were not available yesterday due to some data being delayed in its reporting.

While most children have returned to school and many matrics are busy writing their preliminary examinations, the repercussions of missed teaching time are still haunting teachers and pupils.

The disruption to the school year and emotional stress on pupils is likely to have far-reaching consequences.

Carl Scholtz, head of history at Norman Henshilwood High School and a member of the Western Cape Teachers Forum, said anxiety had been worse than ever among high school pupils nearing the end of their career.

“There’s anxiety about attending school and the possibility of catching Covid-19; the anxiety spreads to not only the virus but catching up with assessments and exams and the possibility of not passing,” Scholtz said.

“We as teachers can only provide support to these learners, but even then this anxiety is being experienced by the learners’ parents or guardians.

“The worry about (learners) potentially failing exams and pressure to perform in assessments despite the massive disruptions to learning has knock-on effects for pupils’ mental health and behaviour in class.

“They become distracted or retreat within themselves and don’t get involved in lessons or invest in lessons,” Scholtz said. “Consequences of this year will have long-term effects. Anxiety, depression and other mental issues will become more prominent. Learning gaps will also grow – reading, writing and skills taught in various subjects will need to be redeveloped and taught in the coming years.

This will impact every assessment and exam, including NSC exams in the future.”

He said he will be more supportive and understanding of his pupils.