NEW DELHI: You have two choices. Stay 1.5 metres apart or 1.5 metres underground. That is South Africa’s no-nonsense health minister Zweli Mkhize’s repeated warnings after the first China-virus cases were reported a month ago. Since then urgent and swift moves by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government in imposing tough restrictive steps and galvanising crucial support from the private sector, have got domestic and international praise. But, South African journalist Mpho Lakaje in conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P.Revi, says the real battle lies ahead. The country has recorded 11 deaths and 1,655 cases – the highest on the African continent (as of April 5). It’s in the 10th day of a three-week lockdown with indications that could continue until June 23. 67 mobile testing clinics and drive-through testing centres are enabling up to 30,000 tests a day but with 30 % of the 57 million population unemployed, big business has stepped in with multiple donations of over 1 billion rand (1 $=19.31 Rand, 1 Rand = Rs 3.94). The worry, Lakaje, says is if the virus makes inroads into densely populated, poor regions which could overwhelm the country’s ill-equipped health care system. While health measures were strict, with the army on the streets enforcing the lockdown, the economy is at a virtual standstill, banks have also been downgraded to junk status.
Mpho Lakaje is a South African journalist, producer and presenter. He has hosted the award winning show ‘Against All Odds’ on South Africa’s 24-hour broadcaster eNCa. He currently works as a freelance correspondent and producer for BBC World Service, Australia’s Channel 9 and Turkey’s TRT World.