Western Cape health officials won’t be resting, even with an apparent flattening of the coronavirus curve in the province.
As of Monday, the province had 10 955 active Covid-19 cases, of a total of 95 407 confirmed positive cases. The City of Cape Town, once declared the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa had only 7 997 active cases of the total of 65 607 confirmed positive cases.
The peak comes after the province prepared for thousands of patients to fill up its public health system. Currently, only 1 387 people require hospitalisation, and 295 people are in intensive care.
In June the provincial health department told the parliamentary committee on co-operative governance that, at its peak, the province could have 989 fewer critical care beds and 2 257 fewer general ward beds than needed.
This did not come to pass.
Instead, none of the three field hospitals built and fitted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, in Khayelitsha and in Brackengate had been filled.
Over the past few weeks, the province has reported an extensive drop in new infections, particularly in the Cape metro’s densely populated communities, such as Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain and the Klipfontein district, which includes Gugulethu, Nyanga, and Manenberg among other areas.
Ongoing vigilance required
Head of department at the provincial health department, Keith Cloete, said the indications of a plateau in the province’s cases appears promising, but he’s worried it could face a resurgence of active cases, as people become more careless and engage in more close interactions.
“This is the time we have to be vigilant. And we, collectively, need to make sure that we do not get a resurgence in cases. It’s crucial that we still need to adhere to mask-wearing, social distancing [and] cleaning hands, to ensure that we break the transmission. It’s going to be the challenge for all the people in the Western Cape,” Cloete said.
Cape Town’s health services have echoed the warning of a possible second wave in infections if vigilance is not maintained.
“Several countries around the world have had to reintroduce tougher restrictions once more, due to secondary waves of infection. This includes countries in Europe and Asia, as well as cities in Australia. These serve as a cautionary tale that we cannot afford to let our guard down, and we have to continue abiding by the health protocols advanced to mitigate the risk of exposure and transmission,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for community services and health, councillor Zahid Badroodien.
Cloete said the province was an early contact point for the virus in South Africa, long before the first official recorded cases in Kwazulu-Natal in early March. There, a man who had travelled to Italy was considered to be South Africa’s patient zero.
But, it’s now the belief that Cape Town — as a major international tourist destination — had community spread of the disease from as early as February.
“Scientists who have done DNA mapping on the virus have proven that we had episodes as early as February from tourists in Cape Town. That’s why we had it earlier,” Cloete confirmed.
The provincial health department has also brushed aside initial criticism for how it responded to the health crisis, despite its strategies being accepted by the national health department.
Early on in the outbreak, the provincial health department said it would not be testing people younger than 55 years old and those without comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes.
It also said it would follow a hotspot strategy to reduce transmissions.
“We would like to believe when we were faced with various things we did everything that we could do, and that we took the right decision at the right time, to the point where we were prepared [for the peak]. We prepared for a worse scenario than actually transpired. We deliberately over-prepared in this province,” Cloete said.