Gauteng premier David Makhura says that the return of holidaymakers from the December festive season has led to a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in the province.
In a media briefing on Monday (11 January), the premier said that Tshwane metropolitan and surrounding areas are now seeing the highest rate of daily infections.
“Tshwane hotspot as a region and as a metro is the centre of (Covid-19) at the moment.” In addition to the return of holidaymakers, Makhura said that the increase can also be attributed to matric rage events in December.
An analysis before Christmas found that the largest number of students who attended the rage matric events from Gauteng came from Tshwane, the premier said.
“We already saw that Tshwane was going to be the hardest hit, but we also saw unfortunate events in the run-up to Christmas. Events which were a flagrant violation of the regulations,” he said.
WATCH: Premier @David_Makhura speaks at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
— GautengGov (@GautengProvince) January 11, 2021
Makhura visited the Steve Biko Academic Hospital on Monday morning after the hospital reported significant pressure due to an increase in Covid-19 cases.
The Gauteng government said that some patients in these hospital are coming from private hospitals, while are others are being referred from outside provinces such as the North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
The provincial government said that it will now erect two additional tents at the hospital to cope with the increasing pressure.
— Tshwane District Health Services (@HealthTshwane) January 10, 2021
The total number of Covid-19 cases in Gauteng as of 9 January is 328,925, with 267,988 recoveries reported and 6,142 deaths.
A total of 4,033 people are currently hospitalized in both public and private facilities.
The Johannesburg district has reported the most cases (133,792) and the most deaths to date (2,096). However, Tshwane’s cases are steadily increasing and the district has now reported a total 84,146 cases and 1,747 deaths.
As cases increase in Gauteng, some health experts have called for the reintroduction of a harder lockdown in the province.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, health experts said that another spike in Covid-19 cases could be reduced if Gauteng is moved to lockdown level 4 for a period of 21 days.
They cited concerns around an anticipated influx of holidaymakers heading back home at the end of the festive season, which could lead to a spike in cases in the country over the next three to six weeks.
The University of Kwa-Zulu Natal’s professor Mosa Moshabela said the effects of holiday travel were already being felt in Limpopo and Mpumalanga due to cross-border travel.
He said both the Western Cape and KZN were approaching their peaks already, but Gauteng still lags.
“The most important thing right now is to stop new infections. Every new infection we prevent is less pressure on our limited resources – hospital beds, oxygen and our healthcare workers. If Gauteng has to move to level 4 for 21 days to prevent new infections, they should do it. We need everything at our disposal to stop new infections.”
“Gauteng is so densely populated it’s already a superspreader event by design. I worry that cases in Gauteng are going to rise much higher than the peaks in KZN and the Western Cape, as we’ve already seen in the first surge,” he said.