Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

COVID-19 (Medium-sized countries) – 2021/06/23

Things are not looking well in South Africa. More and more people are saying that those with COVID-19 are moving closer to home. I am experiencing the same thing myself as virtually every day I hear of someone I know personally, either seriously ill at home or in hospital – if they had been fortunate enough to find a bed available.
In the list of medium-sized countries, the UK and South Africa are still the two countries where the infection rate is continuing to climb upwards. In the UK the rate of infections increased by 0.05% (the same as the previous week) and in South Africa, it moved from 0.47% to 0.66% (0.19% compared to 0.17% last week). Fortunately, the people who had said that the number of new infections in the UK could rise to 15,000 per day this week, seem to be wrong, but nevertheless, the number of new infections is 2,600 higher than last week. The daily number of new infections in South Africa is 3,600 higher than a week ago.
The death rate in both these countries is also on the rise – in the UK on average 13 deaths are recorded per day while in South Africa the number is now standing at 144. South Africa’s total number of official deaths has also moved to above 59,000 after 297 new mortalities were recorded yesterday. Although the infection rate in these two countries is comparable, the death rate tells a different story, mainly because of the high percentage of people who have been vaccinated in the UK. At this stage, 3.71% of South Africa’s population have received at least one jab. We’ve still not reached 100,000 vaccinations per day, but we will get there soon.
I’ve made a small but important change to my table which I always include as my last slide. The doubling time is important, but mostly only for academic reasons at this stage. I have therefore decided to omit the column indicating the doubling time and to replace this with a column indicating the 7-day running average of new cases per million of the population. I use a colour code: Pink when the number moves above 10 and blue when it moves above 50 (the indication that a country is in a new wave). I have done the same for the mortalities, except my colour codes are pink for more than one and blue for over five.
I’ve also made a new graph today, making use of the data as explained above, and it is quite interesting to see which countries took the lead during the different waves:
Mid-April 2020: Turkey
Mid-July: South Africa
First week of November: France
Mid-November: Italy
First week of January 2021: UK
Mid-April: Turkey
And now, South Africa has moved into the top position with 196 new cases per million per day. The next two weeks will indicate whether we are going to pass the peak which occurred in South Africa on 11 January with 317 new cases per million. With Gauteng and Western Cape moving upwards at a sharp trend, my view is that we are going to see new records in the next few weeks – and this is not something to look forward to.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021 Posted by | COVID-19 | Leave a comment

COVID-19: (Large countries) – 2021/06/22

The overall picture from last week hasn’t changed much, except that the USA started moving downwards again. Russia and Brazil are both still on an upwards trend, resulting in Russia having 3,600 more cases per day and Brazil increasing with 6,500 new cases per day. Brazil also recorded their highest number of new cases, just short of 100,000 on 18 June. At this stage, only the USA with 305,000 and India with 414,000 new cases, have higher peaks than Brazil. Mexico had a slight increase in their infection rate.

Russia and Brazil also had a slight increase in their death rates and Brazil has now become the second country to have more than half a million mortalities recorded since the start of the pandemic. It will still be some time before it will overtake the USA in the number of deaths, but with the USA moving downwards and Brazil moving upwards, at some time the lines will cross if the pandemic is not brought under control in Brazil.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021 Posted by | COVID-19 | Leave a comment

COVID-19 (Global) – 2021/06/21

Once again, for the fifth week in a row, the global infection rate moved downwards. From last week’s 0.22% it now moved to 0.2%. The same two countries as last week in southern Africa had new records in their number of daily infections: Namibia on 16 June (2,075) and Zambia on 17 June (3,394). Brazil also had a record number of new cases on 18 June (98,135) and for the third time this past week, one of the provinces in South Africa (Gauteng) also had a new record number of infections yesterday (8,646). Gauteng currently has the second-highest number of new cases per million of all the countries and provinces I am following with 457 new cases per million per day. The highest is Colombia at 534.

On the positive side, four of the top ten countries now have less than 50 new cases per million per day: USA (36.4); India (44.1); France (36.4) and Italy (19.2). I had expected Colombia to move back to the number 11 position in the world, but it now seems that this won’t be happening soon as the infection rate keeps climbing. The UK, which would have moved out of lockdown today, still has 135 new cases per million per day and listening to the news on British Classic FM, it is clear that there is a lot of anger about the decision not to move out of full lockdown.

The same four countries in the top ten where the infection rate went up, also had an increase in their death rates. The total number of deaths in these ten countries are lower than last week, but only with 110 per day, compared to 1,143 last week. Overall, the movements are still downwards, but slower than over the past few weeks and with four countries showing upwards trends the question is whether we will see the trend moving upwards again soon?

There is an excellent one-minute video clip from UNICEF where Olivia Colman shares her answers to five questions regarding COVID-19. This is really a must-see and a must-share. Here is the link:
https://www.facebook.com/unicef/videos/483477956139026/

Monday, June 21, 2021 Posted by | COVID-19 | Leave a comment

COVID-19 (South Africa) – 2021/06/18

Most South Africans are deeply aware of the serious situation which we are facing in the country as a whole, but more specifically in the province of Gauteng. On 16 June Gauteng recorded the highest number of new infections ever (7,880) and the trend is still strongly upwards. I’ve received several reports of hospitals filled to capacity and patients being accommodated in the corridors where I also heard from a reputable source, of at least one person dying after two days. In other cases, people are waiting in cars for a hospital bed to become available. Often, before they are allocated to a bed, they succumb to the infection. In other cases, I have spoken personally to people who are on oxygen in their homes, because no hospital beds are available. At least one health professional, a specialist in communicable disease, remarked that the third wave in Gauteng may be worse than the first and second waves added together. We can but hope that this will not happen. A further problem is that many people are opting for home remedies and medicine such as ivermectin to treat themselves, rather than registering for vaccinations. The good news in Gauteng is that anyone over the age of sixty can now go to a vaccination point without an appointment, where they will be vaccinated.

Six of the nine provinces are currently in their third waves, according to the daily number of new cases per million: Gauteng (378), Northern Cape (232), Free State(153), North-West (141), Western Cape (127) and Mpumalanga (72). The Free State and Northern Cape seem to be moving downwards very slowly, but the rest of the provinces are all on an upwards curve. My expectation is that the Eastern Cape, presently standing on 41 new cases per million per day, will be in its third wave by early next week. South Africa as a whole is on 152 new cases per million per day.

On 11 June North-West recorded their highest number of mortalities (86), but on average Gauteng is still the province with the highest number of mortalities per day at 49, and rising. Last week it had been 33. The average number of mortalities for the country as a whole is now standing at 130. A week ago it was 92.

There had been hopes that the third wave would not be as bad as the second wave, and I still want to hope that in the case of at least some of the provinces this may be true, but the data shows that for the next month or so, we are going to be in for a tough time.

Whereas in the past the government had been criticised for their strict lockdown regulations, after Tuesday’s announcement that the country is now on level 3 of the lockdown restrictions, it soon became clear that this was a matter of too little too late. One extra hour of curfew and restricting the number of people gathering in one venue to 50, down from the previous 100, will not bring this pandemic under control. Some health officials had suggested that much stricter regulations should be applied, and the National Chairperson of the South African Medical Association, Dr Angelique Coetzee, has remarked that allowing even 50 people in a venue is too many to undo the harm that has already been done, specifically in Gauteng. You can listen to an interview with Dr Coetzee here:
https://omny.fm/…/demand-for-hospital-beds-in-gauteng…

On Tuesday as well as on Wednesday, almost 95,000 people received their vaccinations and hopefully, by the end of today, the number of vaccinations administered, will be above the 2 million mark. Currently, 3.31% of the population have been vaccinated. There is still a long way to go, but every week the rate of vaccinations is increasing.

Looking at the number of people in hospital and ICU in South Africa, we see that the number of people in hospitals went up to 8,832 (last week the number was 7,300) while those in ICU increased to 1,636 (compared to 1,401 last week). Of those hospitalised, 800 are currently on ventilation (732 last week).

Yesterday the positivity rate was 22.6% while the 7-day running average over the past week went up from 14.3% to 18.6%. One month ago it was 7.84%. Ideally, it should be below 10%, or even better, below 5%.

What can we expect in the near future? Based on the data from the first and second waves, our number of official cases will approach 1.9 million within the next ten days or so and the number of official mortalities will be close to 60,000. By next week we should have a better idea of the road ahead. Whether we can expect further adapted lockdown restrictions is anybody’s guess. I hope that the government will listen to the advice of medical professionals in this regard.

In the first graph I took as my starting point 1 December (when Gauteng was moving into its second wave) to enable one to compare the present situation with what had happened then.

Friday, June 18, 2021 Posted by | COVID-19 | Leave a comment

COVID-19: (Smaller countries) – 2021/06/17

Since Worldometers reports that South Africa’s population is now over 60 million, this country will no longer appear on my list of smaller countries.

Like last week, Colombia was the only country where the infection had gone up slightly. This week the infection rate rose by 0.04%. The three countries on this list with the highest infection rates, i.e., Chile (0.45%), Argentina (0.56%), Colombia (0.75%) and Peru (0.17%) are all located in South America. The rest of the countries all have infection rates lower than 0.1%. When looking at Ourworldindata, I was not surprised to see that three of these countries also have much lower vaccination rates than those with lower infection rates. In Argentina 42.7% of the population have received at least one jab, in Colombia, it is 18.3% and in Peru 10.9%. Compare this with Canada where 65% of the people have been vaccinated, Belgium with 49.6% and Spain with 46.4%. The one country which surprised me however is Chile, where 61.5% of the population have already been vaccinated, yet the infection rate is quite high when compared with the other countries. I don’t have an explanation for this yet. But I do think it is important to see that in Chile’s case the death rate remained fairly constant, even though the infection rate fluctuated a lot. Could this be the result of their high vaccination rate?

I’ve mentioned the link before, but this is a very neat way to compare two or more countries in terms of their vaccination rates. I’ll include a screenshot below, but you can access the site here:
https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

The death rates in Spain and Argentina went up slightly. In Spain’s case, the daily average mortalities is 40, but in both Argentina and Colombia it is still above 500.

Thursday, June 17, 2021 Posted by | COVID-19 | Leave a comment

COVID-19 (Medium-sized countries) – 2021/06/16

For my data, I depend for the most part on Worldometers. I have found this to be the most accurate and up to date source of data on COVID-19 – more so than Johns Hopkins where the numbers are not updated as regularly as is the case with Worldometers. And something which almost went unnoticed is that the official number of people in South Africa is now above 60 million – 60,021,000 to be precise – according to Worldometers. Since starting with these daily updates, I had included South Africa in the medium-sized countries (because the population was almost 60 million) as well as in the smaller countries. Henceforth I will only report on South Africa on a Wednesday and then obviously on a Friday when I specifically look at what is happening in the different provinces.

As expected, South Africa has gone into lockdown level 3 from midnight. The measures announced are not as strict as I would have thought, as a total ban on any gathering, especially in Gauteng, might have been wiser, according to several health advisors. The reality is that the situation is much worse at this stage than a year ago. But then again, it is up to each individual to make the right decision. At this stage, 3.3% of official cases in South Africa end up in death, which amounts to a one in thirty chance that one can die from this virus. And an increasing number of younger people are now also dying due to COVID.

Like last week, the infection rates in the UK and South Africa once again moved upwards and these countries were joined by Iran which also had an increase in its infection rate. In the UK, 45% of the population are fully vaccinated while 62.6% have received at least one dose. The result of this is clear when comparing the UK with South Africa. The number of new daily infections in the UK is close to what is found in South Africa (7,509 compared to 8,144), but the average number of mortalities in the UK is down to 9, compared to 129 in South Africa (and rising). Yesterday South Africa reported 208 COVID-related deaths.

After last night’s announcement from President Ramaphosa, some political parties blamed the stricter measures entirely on, as one described it, the total failure of the vaccination programme. While I would also want to see that the vaccination programme is expanded rapidly, nobody could have anticipated that the AstraZeneca vaccine would not be effective against the Beta (South African) variant. And then there was a moratorium on the administering of the J&J vaccine to ensure that it would not cause blood clots (and this happened globally, not only in South Africa). Furthermore, the 2 million J&J vaccines that have to destroyed in South Africa, was not caused by neglect on South Africa’s part but was due to contaminated products imported from Maryland in the USA used in the production of the vaccines in South Africa. You can read the report on what had happened at the following link:
https://www.iol.co.za/…/explainer-why-millions-of-j-and…

But perhaps most important of all is that in the UK, where their vaccination programme is running at high speed as mentioned above, they are also now fully in a new wave (111 new cases every day per million of the population) and the expected easing of lockdown restrictions, anticipated for 21 June, has now been delayed for four weeks to enable more people to be vaccinated. In one report on BBC, it is expected that, if the current trend in the UK continues, that by next week there may be as many as 15,000 new cases per day. You can read the report here:
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-57464097

The point I’m trying to make: Even in countries with excellent vaccination programmes, things are not happening quite as hoped for. And to blame the latest lockdown measures in South Africa on a vaccination programme that is not running at the speed we had all hoped for, is, in my mind, unnecessary. I’m not saying that everything was done correctly, but we have lots to be thankful for.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021 Posted by | COVID-19 | Leave a comment

COVID-19: (Large countries) – 2021/06/15

Russia’s infection rate is still on the rise, for the third week in a row. Last week the rise in the infection rate was almost imperceptible, but this week it rose from 0.18% to 0.24% – that is 3,200 more infections per day than a week ago. Brazil as well as the USA also had slight increases in their infections rates. On the positive side India’s infection rate dropped from 0.41% to 0.28%, Pakistan went down from 0.19% to 0.13% and in Japan, the infection rate also decreased from 0.34% last week to 0.24% this week.

Last week Pakistan was the only country where the death rate had increased. This week the death rate in Pakistan went down while it increased in Brazil (0.36% to 0.41%), Russia (0.3% to 0.31%) and Mexico (0.07% to 0.08%). The most significant drop in the death rate occurred in India where it went from 0.82% to 0.57%. However, the mortalities in India were redistributed on Sunday as 11,000 backlog deaths were reported. This redistribution may be the reason for this sharp drop in the death rate in India, but by next week it should be possible to get a clearer picture of what is happening there.

In South Africa, we are awaiting an announcement by president Ramaphosa this evening about stricter regulations to combat the third wave which is causing hospitals to come under immense pressure. I won’t bet any money on it, but I do hope that those who make the decisions will differentiate between provinces such as Gauteng, North-West and Western Cape where the infections rates are climbing strongly (especially in Gauteng) and the other provinces.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021 Posted by | COVID-19 | Leave a comment

COVID-19 (Global) – 2021/06/14

For the fourth week in a row, the global infection rate has moved downwards, this week moving from 0.24% to 0.22%. And for the first time since 5 March, the number of infections per million of the total population dropped below 50. This may indicate the end of the global second wave which peaked on 29 April with more than 900,000 new cases on a single day. The only two countries which had a record number of new cases this past week are both in southern Africa: Zambia (2,358) and Namibia (1,432).

Of the top ten countries, two are now below 50 new cases per million per day; the USA (45.6) and Italy (29.4). The UK, which had come out of its second wave on 6 April and was looking forward to “Freedom Day” on 21 June when all lockdown restrictions would have been lifted, is now back in its third wave with 103 new cases per million yesterday and according to England’s news, the lifting of lockdown restrictions will have to be delayed to ensure that more people are vaccinated.

Colombia is now back in the top ten list, although I expect Spain to push Colombia back into the eleventh position within the coming week.

Globally the death rate moved upwards again with Brazil and India being the greatest contributors towards the higher number of mortalities.

I would be reluctant to say what is really happening in China. However, I did read a report that Guangzhou, the capital of the southern province of Guangdong, is experiencing an upsurge in infections blamed on the Delta (India) variant. But what blew my mind was to read that the city’s entire population of 18.7 million were tested between Sunday and Tuesday last week. Certain neighbourhoods have been placed into total lockdown with nobody allowed to leave their homes. You can read about it here:
https://www.nytimes.com/…/asia/china-covid-lockdown.html

Globally 2.4 billion doses of the various vaccines have been administered up to now and daily this number is growing by 33.1 million. This constitutes 12.7% of the world population that has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. On the negative side, only 0.8% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. There’s still a long way to go, but I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, June 14, 2021 Posted by | COVID-19 | Leave a comment

COVID-19 (South Africa) – 2021/06/11

Yesterday the government announced that South Africa is officially in its third wave. Obviously, they have their own norms to determine when the country is officially in its third wave. As far as I am concerned, we have been in the third wave for the past three weeks. The last two days we saw a high incidence of new cases, yesterday recording 9,147 new cases and Gauteng having more than 5,000 new cases on both of the last two days. The highest number of cases ever in Gauteng occurred on 8 January with almost 7,000 cases on one day. What we see happening now, is not good news at all. The positivity rate has now moved upwards to 15.7% and I can foresee that this will keep on rising for some time. Mpumalanga’s number of new cases per million per day has now risen to 49, which means that by this weekend the province will also have entered its third wave.

The first two provinces that had gone into their third wave, Free State and Northern Cape, are both moving downwards, but the other seven provinces and South Africa as a whole are moving upwards in their infection rates. Gauteng jumped from 0.48% to 0.72% this week with an average of 3,435 new cases per day being recorded. I have several friends who tested positive over the last week or two, some still struggling to recuperate.

The death rate is also moving upwards again with 92 mortalities per day being recorded on average. Gauteng is the province with the highest number of daily mortalities (33, up from 28 last week).

On a very positive note, over the past three days, more than 80,000 people were vaccinated daily and the trend is definitely upwards, which means that we may soon see more than 100,000 people being vaccinated per day. Nationally, 2.71% of the population have been vaccinated at least once – still very far from where the country should be, but still, something to be thankful for.

Looking at the number of people in hospital and ICU in South Africa, we see that the number of people in hospitals went up to 7,300 (last week the number was 6,407) while those in ICU increased to 1,401 (compared to 1,204 last week). Of those hospitalised, 732 are currently on ventilation (647 last week).

Except for the two provinces which seem to have peaked and the increase in the number of vaccinations, there is little good news this week. And we can expect this trend to continue for the next few weeks.

Friday, June 11, 2021 Posted by | COVID-19 | Leave a comment

COVID-19: (Smaller countries) – 2021/06/10

I was deeply saddened this morning to read a newspaper report that 40 elderly people from South Africa had gone on a bus tour to Namibia from 10 – 21 May. Of the 40, 37 contracted COVID-19 and six of these died, four of them in Namibia and two more in South Africa. One of the deceased was the tour leader. This really should serve as a wake-up call that we are not going to be able to continue with normal activities as long as this virus is still around us.

Most South Africans will know that the country had almost 9,000 (8,881) new cases yesterday. The record number of new infections occurred on 8 January with 21,980, but the number yesterday was more than double that of Tuesday (4,209). I sincerely hope that this is not going to continue.

Chile and Argentina that had both been on the rise the past few weeks, started moving downwards again, but Colombia, like South Africa, is still on the rise with a record number of 30,000 new cases being recorded on 4 June and a record number of 550 mortalities recorded yesterday. However, both South Africa and Colombia’s death rates went down slightly this week (South Africa from 0.16% to 0.15% and Colombia from 0.59% to 0.57%). On the other hand, Spain, which for several weeks had had a decline in their death rate, went up from an average of 28 deaths per day to 40.

After the adjustments made to the number of mortalities in Peru from the start of the pandemic, this country is now globally at the top of the list of deaths per million of the population (5,603), 2,500 more than Hungary which is second on the list. In my second graph this is clearly illustrated and it is gladdening to see that South Africa is still at the bottom of this list of smaller countries, (although it has been said over and over again that the number of COVID-related deaths in South Africa is probable also three times higher than those reported – and the other countries on the list should also be much higher).

Thursday, June 10, 2021 Posted by | COVID-19 | Leave a comment