Big increase in Covid-19 hospitalisations as new lockdown looms for South Africa

 ·26 May 2021

South Africa reported a steep increase in Covid-19 related hospitalisations on Tuesday (25 May), another sign that the country is at the beginning of a third wave of infections.

Data published by the department of health shows that there has been a 17% increase in hospitalisations compared to the seven days prior.

The country’s new test positivity rate also shows a steady positive increase compared to the seven-days prior, with all nine provinces showing increases in new test positivity rates.

The highest case incidence per 100,000 population over the past week was reported in the Northern Cape at 226,9. This is followed by:

  • Free State – 101.2
  • Gauteng – 58.4
  • North West – 52.7
  • Mpumalanga – 24.4
  • Western Cape – 22.8

A total of 3,084 new cases have been reported, taking the total reported to 1,640,932.

Deaths have reached 55,976, while recoveries have climbed to 1,543,951, leaving the country with a balance of 41,005 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 700,904.


The steady rise in cases, deaths and hospitalisations has led to increased calls from health experts to introduce further restrictions to help curb the impact of the third wave.

The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) met on Tuesday afternoon to discuss these and other issues, with scientists on South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) suggesting further restrictions.

Reports have indicated that the restriction will focus on gatherings and an extended evening curfew as part of a move to an adjusted level 2 lockdown.

An increase in hospitalisations has also historically been a precursor to further restrictions around the sale of alcohol, although the government is not expected to introduce an outright ban on liquor.

Health experts say that the key change is limiting the number of people at gatherings.

Marc Mendelson, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cape Town, said indoor and mass gatherings are linked to super-spreader events, which South Africa should guard against.

He further called on the government to immediately ban mass gatherings and limit indoor gatherings, including at churches, casinos, and other indoor areas.

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