Mkhize warns of big spike in Covid-19 cases in South Africa – here are new hotspots

Health officials have recorded a worrying increase in Covid-19 cases across much of South Africa, says health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

He said in a statement on Thursday evening (6 May), that the Free State, Gauteng, Northern Cape and North West are of particular concern. However, he said that every province, with the notable exception of the Eastern Cape, has at least one district of concern.

Mkhize said that a number of districts have been flagged by the national institute for communicable diseases (NICD) as ‘under observation’, due to an appreciable rise in the 14-day average percentage change.

Although some of these districts may have relatively low case incidences, the significant rise in percentage changes should be taken as a serious warning, he said. 

The below districts have all recorded an average rise of 20% or more in the past 14 days:

Province District
Free State Mangaung metro
Free State Fezile Dabi
Free State Xhariep
Free State Lejweleputswa
Gauteng City Of Johannesburg metro
Gauteng Sedibeng
Gauteng Ekurhuleni metro
Gauteng City Of Tshwane metro
KwaZulu-Natal Ethekwini metro
Limpopo Capricorn
Limpopo Mopani
Mpumalanga Nkangala
Mpumalanga Gert Sibande
North West Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompak
North West Dr Kenneth Kaunda
North West Bojanala Plaknum
Northern Cape Pixley Ka Seme
Northern Cape Zf Mgcawu
Northern Cape Frances Baard
Western Cape Cape Winelands
Western Cape Overberg

Eastern Cape and restrictions 

In the Eastern Cape, Mkhize said that every district has recorded a zero percentage point change. This does not mean that the province is getting no new infections, however it does mean they have maintained a plateau, which is encouraging, he said.

“The Eastern cape suffered a devastating second wave and was the first province to adopt a differentiated approach where certain metros and districts implemented tighter regulations than others, where it became necessary.

“The Eastern Cape has made great sacrifices to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19 and we must acknowledge this result and encourage the province to keep this up.

“This reinforces the message that we can all play our part to ensure that these rise in infections do not turn into a third wave.”

Mkhize called on South Africans to continue wearing masks, sanitise and avoid crowded gatherings. He said that the government can facilitate and intervene, but ultimately it would rather concentrate on economic recovery rather than imposing further restrictions.

“Therefore every citizen must adhere to the non-pharmaceutical interventions if we are to avoid further restrictions.”

Senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Dr Ridhwaan Suliman pointed to a rise in the test positivity rate in South Africa, with all provinces showing signs of an increase over a 7-day rolling average.

On Thursday, a total of 2,150 new cases which represents a 6.6% positivity rate, with more than 2,000 infection reported on Wednesday. The cumulative number of Covid-19 cases identified in South Africa is 1,590,370. A further 63 Covid-19  related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 54,620 to date.

The number of healthcare workers vaccinated under the Sisonke protocol to date, is 366,101.

Variants 

Dr Mkhize said that the government is also monitoring for Covid-19 variants, such as the B.1.617 variant circulating in India.

“Even though the B.1.351 prevalent in our country has more mutations than the B.1.617 prevalent in India, we were still able to control the spread of B.1.351 in South Africa and bring the wave down to a plateau.

“Therefore we have no need to panic about the B.1.617 because, as with any variant of the coronavirus, the treatment is the same and the way we prevent spread is the same,” he said.

Mkhize added that scientists are currently working to examine samples taken from patients that travelled from India.

“One of the sequences of a traveller has been completed and it turned out to be the B.1.351 variants – one that is circulating here in South Africa. This tells us that one cannot assume that a traveller carries any particular variant and this is why we insist on being guided by the science.

“Having said that, we do share the concerns of our citizens that we could import a variant of concern that can drive another wave.

“For this reason, the NCCC is deliberating on the issue of border control and final determinations will find expression in Cabinet and be communicated to the public accordingly.”


Read: It’s not our fault South Africa had a slow start on vaccines: Ramaphosa

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Mkhize warns of big spike in Covid-19 cases in South Africa – here are new hotspots