South Africa’s biggest mobile phone companies have been asked to help track the movement of people days before a national lock-down as authorities grow concerned that they may spread the coronavirus to remote parts of the country.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases, which is spearheading the government’s response to the outbreak, wants the information so that it can better prepare for the next areas most at risk. So far, most confirmed cases have been in or near major urban areas and linked to affluent travelers returning from Europe.
The three-day gap between President
“One of the unintended consequences of a lock-down is migration and that means transmission,” said Nandi Siegfried, an independent clinical epidemiology consultant in Cape Town. “The whole point of a lock-down is to restrict movement.”
Remote areas of the country that have so far been spared the virus, including rural parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, could be affected and see a spike in cases in two to three weeks, health experts say.
The request “is for high-level aggregated data on how people are moving to help curb the spread of Covid-19,” said Byron Kennedy, a spokesman for
Still, it would have been difficult to put the lock-down in place more quickly, said Kerrin Begg, a senior lecturer in health leadership and management at Stellenbosch University.
“This is always a balancing act; there is no right answer,” Begg said.
NICD communications manager Sinenhlanhla Jimoh and Presidency spokeswoman
(Adds confirmed case number in third paragraph)
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