Hard lockdown was a ‘very, very important step’, says Discovery CEO

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Discovery CEO Adrian Gore during the announcement of Discovery Bank at the group’s headquarters on November 14, 2018 in Sandton. According to Gore, the world’s first behavioural bank, which is set for official launch in March 2019, will reward customers for their good behaviour, applying a similar strategy to that used by its health-insurance operation. Picture: Freddy Mavunda/Gallo Images

Discovery says Covid-19 death claims and hospital admissions have been lower than it expected, which its CEO, Adrian Gore, has attributed largely to hard lockdown restrictions.

The financial services giant, which owns a bank, insurance operations and a medical scheme, was poised to be exposed on all fronts to Covid-19 setbacks. 

But Gore told investors during the company’s results presentation for the year ended on 30 June that as the months went on, and South Africa’s rate of new infections fell, the company recorded a 60% reduction in Covid-19 hospital admission stays. Intensive Care Unit deaths fell by 25% between May and August. 

‘Very, very important’

“I know the early lockdown was tough economically and there’s a lot of debate about that. We believe from an epidemiological perspective, it was probably a very, very important step,” said Gore on Wednesday morning.

Gore said because of social distancing rules and the prohibition of elective surgeries during the initial stages of the lockdown, the company also observed huge decline in utilisation of healthcare services such as general hospital admissions and GP visits which remained muted even after restrictions were eased.

“Covid-19 admissions as a percentage of total admissions, at the peak it was about 15% of the admissions,” he said.

But that does not mean that Discovery was not scared by the lockdown like other businesses in the country.

The company saw a 20% decline in bank spending from its clients. It also had to reserve R3.4 billion for possible mortality claims and deferred surgeries that people might book after the lockdown.