SOUTH AFRICA – Widespread looting and violent protests in South Africa have hit health services hard, halting ambulance services, Covid-19 vaccinations as well as leading to closure of medical clinics.

South Africa is recording an average of about 20,000 cases a day and nursing active cases, cumulatively, of more than 10 times that. Africa’s most economically advanced nation has also been worst hit by the virus, with 64,000 deaths.

As Gauteng and the country are still in the midst of a deadly pandemic, the provincial government remains concerned at the potential spread of Covid-19 during such super-spreader events. Hospital admissions continue to increase and are placing a heavy strain on the healthcare system in both public and private sectors,” a statement read.

Private hospitals in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are under huge pressure, two of South Africa’s biggest healthcare providers, Life Healthcare and Netcare said, as violent protests and looting tear through the two provinces.

Craig Koekemoer, business operations executive for Life Healthcare, said the unrest and looting were adding more pressure to resources and facilities that were under strain with the increased number of Covid-19-related admissions.

This is happening even after tight Covid-19 containment measures were extended in the country at the begging of the week. President Cyril Ramaphosa, while announcing the measures, said the country’s health system was under immense pressure.

Early this month South Africa recorded a new record of over 26,000 daily cases, stretching hospitals to breaking point.

South Africa has recorded over 2 million cases and deaths exceeding 61,500 so far, with the third wave of the pandemic contributing a vast majority to these numbers, data from the Department of Health indicates.

The country has also seen a slow vaccination campaign, with just 4.2 million doses administered to a population of 60 million. Officials aim to reach a vaccination rate of 300,000 a day by the end of August.

To tackle this challenges, South Africa, on Saturday approved China’s Sinovac vaccine against COVID-19, as growing evidence emerges of its effectiveness.

Ramaphosa also noted that the African Union and European Union had reached an agreement for local pharmaceutical company Aspen(APNJ.J) to deliver more than 17 million Johnson & Johnson(JNJ.N) vaccine doses to South Africa and other African countries over the next three months.

Aspen is sourcing vaccine ingredients from J&J to package them in South Africa, a process known as fill and finish.