Picture: Martha Dominguez de Gouveia/Unsplash
Picture: Martha Dominguez de Gouveia/Unsplash

Western Cape’s Covid-19 battle aided by oxygen from Eastern Cape

By Nicola Daniels Time of article published Jan 6, 2021

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Cape Town - Daily deliveries of additional oxygen supplies are being made from the Eastern Cape into the province as the Western Cape braces for a second peak in Covid-19 infections.

The combined oxygen utilisation in public and private hospitals is at approximately 76.4 tons a day, the maximum production capacity of the Afrox Western Cape plant.

At the first digicon for the year, provincial Health Department head Dr Keith Cloete said: “While public sector hospital consumption is at 69% of the Western Cape production capacity, the additional 31% is used by the private sector and military hospitals. The combined utilisation has moved above the maximum production capacity of the Afrox Kuils River plant. At the peak of the first wave in July, the public sector used 27 tons a day. We are currently at 48 tons a day.”

Cloete said Afrox had put contingency plans in place by bringing additional oxygen into the province daily, to provide a total capacity of 95 tons of oxygen a day if needed.

“There are daily deliveries from the Eastern Cape from PE (Port Elizabeth). The Western Cape now has five bulk oxygen tankers allocated for the delivery of oxygen supplies during this week. We will monitor the utilisation of oxygen carefully over the coming weeks,” he added.

Cloete also said the possibility of a third wave was very real.

“The international experience does suggest that there are potentially third waves and that you will have waves until such a time that you have herd immunity achieved through a huge population uptake of vaccine coverage.

“Once you have herd immunity from a vaccine perspective, you normalise as you would with flu vaccines and it becomes part of your normal annual vaccination.”

There is a huge gap between the goal of herd immunity from a vaccination programme and a second wave, hence planning for a third wave is necessary, Cloete said.

He said a third wave might not be at the same scale as the second wave but they would have to do community surveillance, checking antibody levels.

As of 1pm on Tuesday, the Western Cape had 39 092 active Covid-19 infections with a total of 221 029 confirmed cases and 174 408 recoveries.

The Western Cape has recorded 193 additional Covid-19-related deaths, bringing the total number to 7 336.

Premier Alan Winde said while all sub-districts had not shown an increase it was premature to draw conclusions.

“In the Cape Metro, while all sub-districts have not shown increases, we must be extremely cautious in drawing conclusions at this stage, given the change in testing criteria in the metro specifically. We will be closely watching the City of Cape Town over the next week to determine if the trend continues.

It is however promising to note a significant decrease in the Western sub-district within the Metro, which has shown a 35% drop in cases.

“Together this points to the Western Cape nearing a peak of the second wave, and very early signs of stabilisation – although it is still too early to be certain,” he said.

The health-care system still remained under extreme pressure, as this new, more transmissible variant has resulted in significantly more hospitalisations than was experienced in the first wave, said Winde.

He said the Garden Route District passed its peak and was now on a sustained downward trajectory.

“With the exception of the West Coast District, which remains on an upward trajectory (although slower), all rural districts are showing signs of stabilisation, and we are waiting to see whether the slower relay of data over public holidays is the reason for this and whether the pattern holds in the week ahead.”

Meanwhile, the City's cemeteries recorded a 30% increase in burials in the last week.

Of the 501 burials, 139 took place at Klip Road cemetery in Grassy Park, while there were 121 at Maitland and 94 at Welmoed.

There had also been an increase in the number of cremations.

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Cape Times

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