Western Cape health head Keith Cloete said that there was a 53.4% average increase in new cases. Picture: Marko Djurica/Reuters
Western Cape health head Keith Cloete said that there was a 53.4% average increase in new cases. Picture: Marko Djurica/Reuters

Covid-19 hospital admissions in Western Cape increased by 409%

By Nicola Daniels, Siphokazi Vuso, Karen Singh Time of article published Dec 11, 2020

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Cape Town - Covid-19 hospital admissions in the Western Cape have increased by 409%.

This emerged on Thursday when provincial authorities detailed the spike in local Covid-19 cases, a day after Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize confirmed that the country was experiencing a second wave and that the Western Cape was one of the areas identified as key drivers.

Provincial health head Keith Cloete told a digital press conference on Thursday that there was a 53.4% average increase in new cases, no longer driven by the Garden Route but rather by the metro.

Hospitalisations had also increased sharply since mid November reaching 1 615 on Thursday.

“Over the month of November, Covid-19 admissions have increased by 409% and continue to increase as we continue with the resurgence.

“In the same context, trauma admissions have increased with each relaxation of alcohol regulations.

“The relaxation of retail sales and extension of night time curfew, in particular, saw a 36.2% increase in trauma admissions,” he said.

Health-worker infections also continued to increase, with 204 cases over the past seven days.

As cases are increasing, contact tracing was taking strain due to a lack of resources to do the tests.

The province has 18 296 active Covid-19 infections with a total of 146 743 cases and 123 477 recoveries. The latest update on Thursday showed 66 additional deaths were recorded, bringing the total number to 4970.

Provincial Health Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said metro hospitals operated at 81% with 861 open beds, and the rural hospitals were at 84% with 415 beds available.

“The oxygen utilisation has increased in line with the increase in cases (46% of available capacity) and the mass fatality centre has admitted 483 bodies to date (currently 14),” Van der Heever said.

The acute care capacity in the Western Cape would start to buckle if the growth in trauma and Covid-19 cases continues to grow at current rates, warned Premier Alan Winde.

“We cannot allow this to happen. The most important tool available to us continues to be individual behaviour. Please drink responsibly this festive season. If you get into a car accident over this time, there might not be a bed for you because of the number of people in our hospitals right now.

So please look after yourselves and your loved ones and stay safe,” Winde said. Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said he had received calls from co-ordinators of hospitals seeking assistance.

“Mitchells Plain is badly hit and Khayelitsha needs a lot of support . We expect requests from all over Western Cape.

“Sadly, they want more oxygen points in the Mitchells Plain hospital. Khayelitsha also needs oxygen support. These hospitals need oxygen flow meters, connectors for the flow meters, pulse oximeters and hand sanitisers,” he said.

The Covid-19 second wave has been worse than the first wave for half of the countries who have experienced a resurgence of the virus, according to epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist Professor Salim Abdool Karim.

Speaking at the 2020 Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium in Durban on Thursday, Karim said with the expected travelling to begin on December 16, due to schools, factories and big industries closing, the provinces with fewer numbers would start showing increases in infections.

“You only need to look at Europe to know that things are bad. The second surge when it comes upon you is really devastating and we're seeing it country after country,” he said.

Abdool Karim said most of South Africa's virus had come from Europe.

He said Spain, Belgium and the UK all experienced their epidemics quickly, have all had small peaks and have had their second peaks already.

“In Belgium, the second epidemic just hit them. They ran out of beds.”

In terms of the global average, Abdool Karim said South Africa had expected that there would be 66 days from the end of the first surge to the start of the second.

“We were lucky because that time frame was quite substantially longer.

“We were well over 100 days before we started our second surge,” he said.

Another anticipated problem was that when South Africa did receive vaccines, research indicated that only two out of three people would take the vaccine, he said.

Abdool Karim warned that it would possibly take three years to vaccinate 58 million South Africans.

“We need to vaccinate close to 40 million people to get to herd immunity. It's going to take a long time to get to 40 million,” he said.

Cape Times

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