Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says that all provinces across South Africa remain on high alert for a possible Covid-19 resurgence.
Mkhize said in a World Health Organisation (WHO) media briefing on Friday (6 November), that the country has successfully curbed its ‘plateau’ of Covid-19 cases, but warned that there are indications of ‘cluster outbreaks’ and a slight increase cases in certain hotspot areas.
“The concerns that we have to take into account is pandemic fatigue in the population, resulting in low adherence to public health measures,” Dr Mkhize said.
The health minister also warned of exhaustion and fatigue among the country’s frontline health workers. “A possible resurgence could be made worse by the two factors above,” he said. “A delay in obtaining an effective (Covid-19) vaccine also keeps us vulnerable.”
Mkhize also cautioned that the government’s resources are dwindling due to the effect of the pandemic on the economy. “We have had to move resources from various other functions of government to actually fight the pandemic,” he said.
Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality in the Eastern Cape has called on residents to remain vigilant and exercise caution as the number of new Covid-19 cases rose in the past week.
There are now 247 active Covid-19 cases, while the metro has been recording an average of 30 daily new cases, compared to the previous two weeks.
“These are the statistics tabled at the Command Centre meeting, which sat this week,” read a statement issued by the city on Thursday.
Buffalo City has three major towns, namely East London, King William’s Town and Mdantsane.
According to the municipality, most cluster outbreaks have been reported in Quigney, East London, while the majority of patients are students from the University of Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu University, and surrounding residential areas.
Meanwhile, a high resurgence of Covid-19 cases in October has been observed in the East London sub-district.
Learning from other countries
Mkhize said that South Africa is learning from other countries that are experiencing a Covid-19 resurgence, including the measures taken to detect and promptly respond to a resurgence.
This week the UK entered into a three-week lockdown until 1 December, while both France and Germany have also reintroduced further lockdown restrictions.
“A national plan of action to mitigate Covid-19 resurgence (in South Africa) has been developed,” Mkhize said. “Provinces are currently developing their resurgence mitigation plans that incorporate an early warning system for (the) prompt detection of clusters.”
Dr Mkhize said that this early warning system is capable at a district-level, allowing the government to form an early response to an outbreak.
“All the provinces remain on high-alert of a resurgence. Every day we watch and look at where the clusters are breaking out.”
He said that the provinces which have detected new clusters in the past three weeks – including the Western Cape and Eastern Cape – have responded aggressively to them.
Mkhize defined a resurgence as an approximately 20% increase of the average incidence of Covid-19 cases (using a seven-day moving average) within a defined geographic area such as a ward, district or province.
He said that an alert system has been established alongside the WHO to trigger certain actions where cases are seen to rise above a certain level.
Government will track these vigilance indicators and then depending on the level, identify and implement interventions as well as push for continuous monitoring and evaluation.
The alert level is also colour-coded as follows:
President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to brief the nation next week on South Africa’s lockdown strategy around the coronavirus pandemic.
Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu said on Thursday (5 November) that the briefing will be based on a cabinet meeting and suggestions provided by the National Coronavirus Command Council.
Mthembu added that the cabinet is concerned that South Africans have grown increasingly indifferent in their response to the pandemic and are no longer following lockdown regulations.
“Cabinet is concerned that some people are behaving recklessly and irresponsibly as if Covid-19 no longer exists,” he said.
“Cabinet calls on all people in South Africa to continue adhering to the health protocols of practising social distancing, wearing masks in public and washing our hands with water and soap or an alcohol-based sanitiser, and avoid large gatherings.”
South Africa reported 1,866 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday (5 November), taking the total reported cases to 732,414.
Deaths have reached 19,677, a daily increase of 92, while recoveries have climbed to 671,579, leaving the country with a balance of 41,158 active cases.