Looting sprees in South Africa that saw thousands of people pillage shops and warehouses are poised to worsen the country’s already grave struggle with coronavirus, health experts said.
“We are concerned about the last three or so days of rioting in some parts of South Africa, it may exacerbate the situation of a very severe wave,” the World Health Organization’s director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said on Thursday.
“The government has to brace itself, and we in the WHO will be preparing to see an increase in the cases again.”
Recent days of unrest in the country has left at least 117 dead, as rioters ransacked shopping malls and warehouses in some areas.
South African virologist Barry Schoub, a member of a scientific panel advising the health ministry, warned of the state of the pandemic in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, which has been heart of the unrest.
“KZN is on the upward phase of the epidemic curve,” he said Friday.
South Africa has the highest tally of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Africa, recording more than 2.2 million infections and nearly 66,000 deaths.
In the past 24 hours, the toll has risen by 16,400 cases, of which 377 were fatal.
The authorities are struggling with a lack of vaccines, public fatigue with anti-coronavirus measures and the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus.