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The dilapidated public health system

More than 25 years after the fall of apartheid, South Africa is still one of the most unequal countries in the world, which translates into the failure of delivering basic services to its people, including healthcare. Eighty-two per cent of people living in South Africa have no health insurance and rely on public clinics and hospitals. These facilities are overcrowded and understaffed and often fall short of coping with a high amount of communicable and infectious diseases.

"We cannot contain COVID-19 with our health system alone," Moshabela said. "If we look at how Italy [Europe's coronavirus hotspot] is coping with the virus - we can't do it. We will be similar to that with the difference is that we don't have a big old population but a high number of people who have TB and HIV. Those who are going to South Africa News  be affected the most are going to be between 20 and 60."

Health professionals agree that only a drastic public health response can prevent the virus from spreading at a fast pace, warning that social factors such as lack of access to information and lack of sense of empowerment - people often do not know where to seek help or what they can do to protect themselves - complicates the fight to contain COVID-19. 

Compounding the challenging situation is the country's high Press Release Distribution Services In South Africa unemployment rate of 29.1 per cent. "Many people live under conditions of severe poverty," Moshabela said. "Asking those to restrict movements and not go to work is not going to be an option."

Spread of rumours
Meanwhile, in the streets of Johannesburg, the mood has shifted from cracking "corona" jokes to general tension and confusion.

In Bertrams, a low-income neighbourhood just east of Johannesburg's inner city, people started moving into the local supermarkets to equip themselves for what is coming. Shops and other places frequented by the public intensified hygienic controls. Some started wearing face masks.

At the entrance of a local supermarket, two ladies sprayed everyone's hands in an attempt to limit germs; all employees wore blue single-use gloves; and the managers covered their mouths with masks.

"It's serious," the security guard at the entrance said, laughing timidly. 

Having believed a rumour that COVID-19 comes from eating meat, some people think they have to change their diets. On his way out of a local corner shop, a man proudly held up his plastic bag and announced that he is now buying fish. "Nyama [meat] gives you corona," he said.

False information shared in Whatsapp groups and other social media platforms perpetuate the confusion. "A Palestinian scientist has found the vaccine against corona" is one message circulating in the community groups. Another one reads: "Corona can be cured by boiling 8 tablespoons of garlic and 6 cups of water."

Information is an important factor to contain the virus, said Moshabela, whose university will remain shut as of Wednesday. On this last day, he called a meeting in the boardroom to inform the people about the reasons behind the measures that have been taken.

"We don't have the basics," he said, referring to the need for people to understand why shaking hands, giving hugs or going to gatherings is not acceptable any more.

But even when information is accessible, there is denial.

"There is tension with religion, there is tension with the economy. But on the other hand, if we carry on as if it was nothing, some of us won't have a life at all."
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