The surge in Covid-19 infections in the Western Cape can be traced to transmission in malls and supermarkets in the last weeks of South Africa’s hard lockdown and was likely caused by so-called “super-spreading events”, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s special advisor on the coronavirus pandemic said.
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Professor Salim Abdool Karim said on Friday that the number of cases in the Western Cape were now doubling every nine days, compared to Gauteng’s doubling rate of around 24 days and the Eastern Cape’s 12 days. At the height of the Covid-19 epidemic, the figure will double every four to five days.
The province was “simply an early indicator” for the progression of epidemic in other provinces, he said, but with some luck the health services could glean important information here that could be applied to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on other provinces.
The hotspot intervention will see health care workers try to contain outbreaks in pinpointed areas by screening and isolating potential cases, if necessary in quarantine facilities.
“We have to look for the flames and douse them before they become raging fires,” Karim told a briefing hosted by Mkhize.
The health minister’s special advisor has cautioned that there will be outbreaks, as this is a normal part of the progression of the virus. “We will see outbreaks, we have seen one in the last few days at the mines, but it is not a reason to panic, it is not a reason to shut everything down,” he said.
The latest regulations that the government has published this week allows for the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to return a municipal region to level 4 or 5 lockdown restrictions if all other interventions fail to contain community transmission.
Karim has praised the efforts of the province, particularly in zoning on areas of high community transmission to prevent the outbreak widening.
The Western Cape is due to be prioritised when the health department receives the next consignment of testing material, according to Doctor Kamy Chetty, the CEO of the National Health Laboratory Services.
Chetty has confirmed that the country has a backlog of 83 767 processed specimens because of a shortage of diagnostic material. Because of international demand, the country is receiving, in a week, roughly the amount of material it needs daily.
The number of outstanding test results for the Western Cape is about 15 000.
Mkhize told the briefing the total number of new infections in the past day was 1,837, bringing the number of confirmed infections nationwide to 29,241, of which 18,906 cases were recorded in the Western Cape.
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