Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has warned that Gauteng will emerge with the highest Covid-19 numbers within days.
The minister announced on Sunday evening that there are now 138,134 total cases of coronavirus in South Africa.
This is an increase of 6,334 cases from 131,800 cases reported on Saturday – when a record 24-hour high of 7,210 cases was recorded.
The minister announced 43 new Covid-19 related deaths, taking the total to 2,456 casualties, with 68,925 recoveries to date.
A total of 1.57 million tests have been conducted to date, with 38,075 tests conducted over the past 24 hours, Dr Mkhize said.
“We are seeing a rapid rise in the cumulative number of positive Covid-19 cases indicating that, as we had expected, we are approaching a surge during the latter winter months of July and August.
“It is anticipated that while every province will unfortunately witness an increase in their numbers, areas where there is high economic activity will experience an exponential rise – beginning with Gauteng and Western Cape and followed by Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.”
“We believe that within the coming days, Gauteng will emerge with the highest Covid-19 numbers, the health minister said.
Factors contributing to this trend are inward migration; the large population; increased congregating which spurs cluster outbreaks; and the level to which people are able to adapt to new behaviours such as social distancing and the wearing of masks, he said.
Dr Mkhize said that the surge that has been witnessed in the past two weeks has developed due to seeding of infections carried in by members of the community as they moved back into the workplace.
“It was therefore inevitable that there would be cluster outbreaks as infections spilled over from communities into places of congregation such as mines, factories, taxis and busses,” he said.
President of the South African National Taxi Association, Phillip Taaibosch, said on Sunday that all taxis will load at 100% capacity from Monday, June 29, in defiance of the government’s 70% capacity rule, to prevent the spread of the virus.
Transport minister, Fikile Mbalula, called the taxi industry’s decision unfortunate, and condemned the call for taxi operators “to violate provisions of the law”.
MINISTER @MbalulaFikile STATEMENT ON SANTACO AND NTA MEDIA STATEMENTS
It is rather unfortunate and regrettable that the taxi industry leadership has elected to violate the law, rather than await a decision on the matters they have tabled. pic.twitter.com/z8Q3RD8t1L
— MEDIA LIAISON | Esethu Hasane (@EsethuOnDuty) June 28, 2020
Gauteng’s steep upward curve
Turning his attention to the Western Cape, the minister said he recognised that there were some key issues that led the province to having high number of cases.
“One of the main observations was that the the provincial strategy was mainly hospicentric- focusing on case management. Intensive contact tracing, quarantine and isolation programmes were sub-optimal.”
Dr Mkhize said that since the intervention, the province has been working hard to address these gaps, “but we are receiving reports that most community members remain reluctant to subject themselves to quarantine and isolation, despite government having secured these sites in various parts of the province.”
“Our concern is that this continues to exacerbate the risk of spread of infections in communities especially in households where it is practically impossible to self isolate given the limited space.”
The doctor noted that the hospitalisation rate is increasing with Western Cape remaining the province with the highest numbers of admissions.
As at 27 June the majority of hospitalised patients were admitted in Western cape at at 36% (1,629), Gauteng at 26% (1,164) and and Eastern Cape at 17% (775).
Nationally the highest proportion of patients are in general wards (isolation wards) at 80.1% of hospitalised patients, 11.3 are in intensive care and of those 58.6% are on ventilation. He said that 15% of all hospitalised patients are on oxygen.
Elderly at risk
The National Institute of Communicable Diseases has published data studying 10,700 Covid-19 admissions in 269 facilities (71 Public and 198 private) between 5 March 2020 and 21 June 2020.
“The data does indeed confirm that the elderly and those with co-morbidities – like hypertension, diabetes, cardiac disease, chronic kidney disease, malignancy, HIV and obesity – are the most vulnerable population,” said minister Mkhize.
“As we are all well aware, these diseases are prevalent in our country. We therefore cannot afford to take our eyes off the non-Covid-19 issues that were already putting pressure on our health care system before the advent of Covid-19.”
“Although we see mortally rising in absolute numbers, our mortality rate remains stable between 1.8% and 2.1%,” the minister said.