Health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced early Friday morning that total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa has risen to 482,169 after 11,046 more people contracted the virus over a 24-hour reporting period.
Gauteng remains the hardest-hit province with 171,574 cases, followed by the Western Cape 94,440, Eastern Cape 77,055 and KwaZulu-Natal with 73,919 cases.
Gauteng accounts for 35.6% of all cases, as the Western Cape begins to show signs of recovery. “The early indication that the pandemic is starting to ease in some areas of the Western Cape is reflected in our healthcare services platform capacity,” said premier Alan Winde.
The Western Cape province accounted for more than than 65% of all cases in the country in the early stages of the pandemic. The province has 10,915 total active cases, with hospitalisations at 1,500 – 280 in ICU or high care.
South Africa recorded 315 more deaths due to Covid-19, minister Mkhize reported on Friday morning.
A total of 121 deaths were reported in the Eastern Cape, 96 in Gauteng, 55 in KwaZulu-Natal, 34 in the Western Cape and nine in the North West.
This brings the cumulative number of deaths to 7,812 as of Thursday, he said.
Earlier this week, Dr Mkhize warned that the peak for Covid-19 infections will likely continue into September.
“What we expect is that the numbers are still likely to increase. We expect, in terms of the models, that in August and September we will still have high numbers. Each province has got its own trajectory,” he said as part of a Q&A with the public on Sunday evening, broadcast by Newzroom Afrika.
The minister stressed that if the country does not practice social behavioural changes, the virus will continue to spread. “The numbers will always grow depending on how well as a community we can break the cycle.”
He once again called on South Africans to wear masks, practice physical distancing, sanitise and wash their hands.
Dr Mkhize said that the country is in the grips of the worst phase of the virus. “We expect the numbers are still likely to increase … August and September we’ll still have high numbers.”
Premier Winde warned at the beginning of July, that the virus peak was anticipated to be “flatter, later and longer” than previously thought.
Citing projections from the National Covid-19 Epi-Model (NCEM), he said that the province’s peak would likely occur between the end of July, and beginning of August.
“This peak is also flatter than was originally projected. This means that we will not have as many hospitalisations and deaths at the peak as we originally thought,” he said.
Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province, has become the so called ‘epicentre’ of the the coronavirus in recent weeks, with the peak yet to hit.
GAUTENG CONFIRMED COVID-19 CASES DISTRICT BREAKDOWN:
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Gauteng as at 29 July 2020 sits at 168 369, with 106 360 recoveries and 1836 deaths.#GrowingGautengTogether #GautengCOVID19 pic.twitter.com/iUXEZwS4Ae
— Gauteng Health (@GautengHealth) July 30, 2020
Professor Bruce Mellado, from Wits University’s iThemba Labs, and member of the Gauteng advisory Council, said in a weekly provincial update on Thursday (30 July), that hotspots in the province are behind the surge in the number of cases – as they create ‘small pandemics’ – high density cases in populous areas.
He said that these hotspots grow, reach peak, and then typically collapse within 1-4 weeks.
The number of active cases reported daily in the province has declined in recent days, from a peak of around 5,000, down to 3,500 cases.
However, the professor warned that the ‘up and down’ reporting of cases does not mean that Gauteng is passed its peak yet.
Hotspots, he said, have ‘ups and downs’. Mellado said their growth or their ability to diminish is based on adherence to social distancing, and the pro-activity from within the community, as well as measures taken by local authorities.
“The bad news is that the virus is everywhere (in the province). As a result, the pandemic is taking its course, and is progressing towards a larger peak, he said.
At the start of July, Gauteng’s Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku – who was this week placed on leave, pending an investigation into tenders around the virus – said that the number of coronavirus cases in the province would increase dramatically over the next few months, exceeding 120,000 cases by the end of July.
In an interview with News24, Masuku said that the province would likely only reach a ‘peak’ sometime in September.
“Our predictions tell us that we will be reaching 120,000 cases by the end of July. We will be getting closer to 250,000 to 300,000 by August – (and in) September, which is expected to be the peak, we will be having more than that.
“September will not be much different than what August will be except that we will be having them at a consistent pace and at a longer period.”
Prior to that date, in mid June, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) published projections by the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium (SACMC), showing that if testing patterns had remain unchanged, cases would reach around 408,000 by mid-July.
The cumulative number of deaths by mid-July was expected to be 7,440 (with the forecast range of 3,610 to 14,000).