Covid-19 pressure eases in the Western Cape but trauma cases on an upward trend
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Cape Town – As the country moves into week three of lockdown level 2, it's still recording more than 100 Covid-19 deaths a day, even as the infection rate continues to fall.
Unrelated traumas are also filling up ICU beds, calling into question the province's decision to close field hospitals.
But provincial Health Department head Dr Keith Cloete said the province’s decision to close the CTICC and Khayelitsha field hospitals was “justified” despite an upward trend in trauma cases, accidents and shootings since the easing of the lockdown to level 2.
“The two field hospitals had never been designed to deal with trauma cases anyway. They were designed specifically for dealing with Covid-19,” said Cloete.
“We've maintained the hospital at Brackengate. But even there last night there were only 36 patients in a hospital that has capacity of 330 beds.
"So we feel completely justified in closing the field hospitals,” said Cloete.
He was answering questions during Premier Alan Winde’s regular digital news conference as the province announced an additional 18 Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the provincial toll to 3 941.
“There has been an upsurge in trauma post the lifting of the alcohol ban. Since the move to level 2 the hospitals are seeing an upswing.
"However, the key issue is that we have sufficient hospital capacity to cope with all the non-Covid related cases that are coming at us now. If we should have an upswing of Covid-19 cases, we believe that we will have the capacity to respond to whatever is coming our way,” said Cloete.
“The Covid-19 pressure has eased off considerably in the Cape metro and also more recently in the rural districts where rural regional hospitals have spare critical care capacity available,” said Cloete.
“There has been no upsurge in the Covid death and infection rate in the two weeks since level 2 began. In fact, we have had a continuous decline and it has been so across all the areas,” said Cloete.
Premier Winde said the province does not have reliable tools to predict the likelihood, location or timing of a resurgence in Covid-19 cases in the province, and ongoing surveillance remains key to ensuring that we understand emerging trends.
Public health medicine specialist from UCT, Professor Mary Ann Davies, said one of the ways to explore whether there was an increase in the number of new cases in a specific area was to look at waste water testing.
“We have seen this kind of science being used all around the world and waste-water epidemiology is not new to South Africa,” said Davies.
World Health Organization Africa Region was preparing for what will be the largest roll-out of vaccines in Africa.
During a media briefing on vaccine access on the continent, Dr Richard Mihigo, the WHO Africa programme area manager in immunisation and vaccine development, said in the past Africans were the last to gain access to vaccines and that the WHO’s Covax facility would ensure this did not happen.