Eskom has confirmed that it will implement stage two load shedding from Friday until Sunday evening. Last month, South Africans experienced load shedding after the power utility failed to bring some of its units back online following maintenance.

Eskom says the system remains vulnerable and unpredictable. It says any further breakdowns would force it to escalate the rolling blackouts.

Impact of load shedding

Media personality, Denzil Taylor, says years of load shedding couldn’t prepare him for the fear he had experienced recently when the power went out whilst he had been in hospital.

“You are dependent on all the systems working. All the medical equipment working. And your mind begins to think about being dependent on this thing, coming into this building and saving your life, and at that moment, when the power cuts, and everything cuts and everything becomes dark and it’s black, you start counting in your head, ‘when does the power come back. And then it does?’ It’s a scary moment. It’s a different moment because your life depends on it.”

Luckily for Taylor, the generator kicked in. However, for those relying on oxygen at home, and who don’t have back-up power, it’s a different case.

Professor Guy Richards, a pulmonologist involved in ventilation, says it’s important for those with low oxygen to stay plugged in.

“COVID-19 is known to cause low oxygen in the blood and that is known as hypoxemia. This occurs when the patients develop the pneumonia-like manifestation of this disease. If you do develop this hypoxemia, you will require oxygen. And this is supplied most often by means of an oxygen concentrator which requires electricity to function in the appropriate manner.”

Richards says it’s possible to get the oxygen by means of a cylinder but they run out quickly.

“If you are using a concentrator, which requires electricity and the power goes off, your supply of oxygen then would stop. And if the patient’s oxygen levels do decline a significant amount, it is a possibility that this could have a significant outcome in the patient dying.”‘

Health economist, Professor Alex Van Den Heerver, says you have to make means for a continuous power supply if you’re being treated at home.

“There are numerous solutions to that and they vary in cost. But to avoid having power cuts for various reasons, and it can be something to do with people stealing copper wire, to a localised outage, or even load shedding – anyone of those could impact on a household. So  you do need to have some backup arrangement in place when you are relying on something particularly for life support.”