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The disease that gave the world a wake-up call

Douglas Boateng is the first-ever Professor Extraordinaire for supply and value chain management in Africa, appointed by the SBL. He also serves as the independent chairman of Ghana’s Public Procurement Authority (PPA). Appointed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in 2017, Boateng performs a non-executive supervisory role at the authority to help transform and reposition the organisation in support of Ghana’s long-term industrialisation and socio-economic developmental agenda.

Douglas Boateng, Professor Extraordinaire for supply and value chain management in Africa at the Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership, analyses the latest data around the coronavirus pandemic.

The global perspective

As at 2 May 2020, globally, the more than three million recorded coronavirus infection cases equate to 0,045% of the 7.9 billion global population, whilst 50 861 recorded serious and critical cases as a percentage of the known infection cases amounts to 1,46% and reducing. Furthermore, the more than 200 000 recorded unfortunate deaths—0,00314% of the global population is not significantly rising. However, in relation to the recorded infection cases at 7,03% the recorded deaths are showing a downward trend. When considering the 50 861 recorded serious and critical cases as a percentage of the global population at 0,00065% it clearly indicates a significant upward trajectory, whilst the approximately 1.1 million recovered cases as a percentage of recorded infections now stands at 31,83% and rapidly rising. It is also expected to relatively surge within the next 30 days.

The South African perspective

Between 1 February 2020 and 2 May 2020, 6 336 coronavirus infections have been recorded in South Africa. This represents 0,011% of the latest total population (57.7m. Feb 2020) of South Africa and well below the global average. Out of these infection cases, 123 South Africans have sadly died from the Covid-19 disease. The fatalities represent 1,94% of the recorded infection cases. As a percentage of the total population of South Africa as at May 2, it is 0,0002% and not significantly rising.

Nonetheless, these unfortunate deaths are relatively significant considering the impact each fatality has on the 123 affected families. It is also worth noting that the 36 recorded serious and critical cases as a percentage of the South African population and as a percentage of recorded infection cases is currently 0,0001% and 0,568% respectively and not showing a significant upward trajectory. The total number of recovered cases have risen to 2 549 within the same period representing 40,23% of recorded infections. This figure is higher than the global average of 31,83%. All indications point to a significant increase in the number of recoveries within the next 30 days.

A well-funded public health supply chain system and integrated global surveillance coupled with strict containment and compliance measures are the keys to success. Without a doubt, coronavirus is a very contagious micro-organism with serious implications for mankind. Until a vaccine is developed and mass produced, or until the majority of the world’s population develop antibodies, the impact of the virus will be tremendous with numerous untended consequences. Therefore, fully integrated measures for tracing, testing, isolation, treatment, continuous tracking and monitoring must for now be mandatory. Secondly, containment measures such as the wearing of the right face protection masks, improved personal hygiene, washing of hands, restrictions on public gatherings, social distancing in communal areas, in offices and work areas, and border controls must still be strictly adhered to. It is also essential that global decision makers must work together to find lasting solutions post lockdowns. An increased investment in both local and global public health must be an immediate must.

We neglect other diseases at our own peril. Concerns are already being voiced by leading organisations including the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Alliance for Malaria Prevention (AMP), TB alliance, World Food programme (WFP), UN Women, World Health Organisation(WHO), and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI) about the impact of SAR-COV-2 and Covid-19 on other very destructive infections and diseases. Collected data by the Department of Health (DOH) and other monitoring bodies will most likely sadly reveal that the virus’s clever ambush of our public health system over the last eighty days has unfortunately resulted in thousands of South Africans perishing from malnutrition, typhoid, depression, diabetics, malaria, hypertension, cholera, women and child abuse, flu, and TB Aids, to name but a few. Policy makers and citizens should not allow this invisible and cunning enemy hoodwink them to disregard these other dreadful diseases which are also (a) causing havoc within our struggling and relatively underfunded public healthcare system; (b) destroying families; (c) negatively impacting workplace productivity; and (d) hampering socio-economic development.

There a saying that “the truth will always remain the truth even if nobody believes, and a lie will always remain a lie even if everybody believes it.” With more carefully coordinated public education (in English and local languages), tracing, testing, isolation, treatment, continuous tracking and monitoring, recorded coronavirus infection cases are definitely going to show an upward trajectory into the foreseeable future. Current factual data clearly provide evidence that the global tide is turning with South Africa managing the unprecedented crisis relatively well.

On a more positive note, deciphered data from, amongst others WHO, John Hopkins University, and Harvard University, as well as various emerging epidemiological models, have provided further proof that getting infected with the coronavirus is certainly not a death sentence. Nor does it necessarily lead to the full blown Covid-19 disease.

In many other countries, several high-profile and ordinary citizens are increasingly publicly declaring their positive status to minimise the stigma attached to testing positively and to give hope to others in their country and the world at large. The actor, Tom Hanks; Richard Quest, CNN International Anchor and Business Editor at large; as well as Prince Charles of the UK are classic examples.

To date, more than 3 million infections have been recorded globally. Both total serious and critical cases and total deaths as a percentage of the world’s population remains well below one percent (1%). Total death, as a percentage of recorded coronavirus infections is under eight percent (8%) and improving.

Thanks to the President and Government’s directives coupled with our individual improving self-discipline, the facts on South Africa as indicated for both virus and disease for now, seems to be under control and well below the global trends.


The coronavirus is unquestionably a highly infectious novel virus with the associated Covid-19 disease certainly lethal, especially among the aged and vulnerable. In record time this cunning and elusive beast has managed to bring the entire globe, several industries, such as building and construction, hospitality, public health, tourism, small business, entertainment, sports, and associated supply chains, to its knees. Our success in containing the virus and the associated disease to help restore some new form of normalcy, as rightly and repeatedly opined by President Ramaphosa, other global leaders and experts, is the constant need for a vigilant and determined “citizens’ army” prepared to strictly adhere to the clearly defined rules for wining this very complicated war. The ultimate victory will thus depend on each one of us to remain disciplined and fully focused on the goal.

*By Douglas Boateng, Professor Extraordinaire for supply and value chain management in Africa, Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL)

Publish date: 2020/05/13