Doctors in South Africa, the continent’s coronavirus epicenter, expected to be busy as the virus ravaged its way across the Rainbow Nation. But one type of doctor is seeing an unexpected boom in demand: plastic surgeons, who say that the combination of lockdown-imposed isolation and South Africa’s world-class medical technology is causing a rush of people who are quietly changing their appearance.

Doctors in South Africa, the continent’s coronavirus epicenter, expected to be busy as the virus ravaged its way across the Rainbow Nation. But one type of doctor is seeing an unexpected boom in demand: plastic surgeons, who say that the combination of lockdown-imposed isolation and South Africa’s world-class medical technology is causing a rush of people who are quietly changing their appearance.

It’s the same trend that aesthetic surgeons are seeing in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere.

“There’s definitely been a flood of people coming through,” said South African physician Dr. Saadia Laher, “and again, that’s mostly because a lot of people are still at home. They also are very aware — I think when something like a pandemic hits you, you kind of realize that we are all here on limited time, and you want to make the most of everything. And if that means feeling better about yourself then, why not?”

At the Johannesburg hospital where Laher works, patients are monitored for any signs of coronavirus. They receive COVID-19 tests before their cosmetic procedure, and are kept in separate wards from ill patients.

Patient Alishia de Lange said she thought long and hard before going under the knife for a breast enlargement. She says she’s happy with the results, and was comfortable with her doctor’s safety precautions.


Her procedure was done at a fertility clinic, as her doctor felt it best to avoid hospitals.

“It’s something that I really wanted to do for a very long time,” de Lange said. “And when the time came, yeah, I just thought I’d go ahead and do this regardless of the time we’re living in. We don’t know how long it’s going to last. We don’t know when it’s going to end.”

Her procedure cost about $2,600. In the U.S., the average cost of the surgery is just under $4,000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Laher said her continent often gets attention for other health crises, but that South Africa’s medical offerings are varied and world-class.

“We still very much keep in touch with the latest and greatest of technologies and techniques,” she said. “There’s a lot of expertise out here, there’s a lot to see and a lot to learn. And we’ve always been involved as a medical fraternity in all of that. So I think there’s a lot that we can provide and contribute to. And I’d love everybody to come out and experience that with us, as well.”

And who knows what you’ll leave with, she said. Maybe a new and improved you.

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