Eerie photographs have emerged of thousands of fresh graves in South Africa as its number of coronavirus cases take the country to fifth in the world.
Recently filled graves were photographed at Olifantsveil Cemetery outside Johannesburg preparing for the thousands of deaths the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking on the country.
Despite South Africa being Africa’s most well-prepared country for the pandemic it currently has 538, 184 cases and 9,604 deaths, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.
But the death rate is thought to be a lot higher as a South African Medical Research Council report last week showed many coronavirus deaths were going uncounted.
South Africa has conducted at least three million tests, more than any other country in the continent, but it is still not enough and supplies are constantly being snapped up by richer countries.
‘We are fighting this disease in the dark,’ International Rescue Committee expert Stacey Mearns said.
In addition, Africa has only 1,500 epidemiologists, a deficit of about 4,500 and Africa’s younger population means that many infections will be asymptomatic.
Ridhwaan Suliman, a senior researcher at South Africa´s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, thinks Africa has at least five million infections with South Africa accounting for at least three million.
Sema Sgaier, an assistant professor of global health at Harvard and director of the Surgo Foundation, thinks the number of infections across Africa could be more than nine million.
The U.S.-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation puts the number at more than eight million.
And Resolve to Save Lives, led by Tom Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimates it could be 14 million.
Preempting its disadvantage South Africa went into one of the world’s strictest lockdowns early on, causing severe economic issues, but the country is still struggling to cope as hospital beds fill up.
The WHO Africa chief criticised the ‘very distorted global market’ in which richer countries have the bulk of testing materials while poorer ones scrape by on just hundreds of tests a day.
Amnesty International warned that African countries, including South Africa, were dishing out tough punishments for citizens during lockdown in April.
South African media has reported police beating up people for flouting lockdown rules and even destroying food.
One South African church has quietly been marking the country´s ‘known’ number of deaths by tying white ribbons to its fence.
The project´s founders say each ribbon really stands for multiple people.
Already, the Rev. Gavin Lock wonders about what to do when the length of fence runs out.
They are considering changing the ribbons to represent ten or 50 people.