Why is South Africa Government Hiding Information about COVID-19?

"There is an element where we want to avoid panic in communities, and we're also mindful of the stigma of the virus."

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Image source: GCIS

The South African government is suppressing information from the public about COVID-19.

The Sunday Times reported that the government is doing this to “avoid panic.”

Leading experts have questioned why COVID-19 modelling data is being kept under wraps by the government.

“We don’t want to put these models out to the public as if they are the gospel truth,” President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, told the Sunday Times.

“There is an element where we want to avoid panic in communities, and we’re also mindful of the stigma of the virus.”

She conceded that “we need to allow people to feel more in control. That is perhaps something that is not being done as well as we could, because when people are armed with information, they feel like they are taking charge of their lives rather than just receiving info from the government.”

As at yesterday, South Africa had 525 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, with the total number of confirmed cases at 9 420.

With infection rates soaring this week and poor people starving because they cannot work, Ramaphosa and the national command council face decisions that will affect many lives.

Wits University health economist Alex van den Heever, told the Sunday Times: “Data can easily be skewed. Our entire response to Covid-19 is too dependent on government acting on its own. The danger with not releasing data properly is that there is no verification of the level of the outbreak.”

He warned that if people must behave in specific ways, they have to be kept informed.

“Public disclosure enables people to make their own decisions in regard to their personal prevention strategies.”

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