DURBAN – KwaZulu-Natal is now recording deaths of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 at a “catastrophic” level not experienced in living memory.
And to combat the further spread of the virus the government will intensify its enforcement of lockdown regulations, such as keeping to the curfew, the wearing of masks and the alcohol ban.
This was the warning from KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, who told journalists at a media briefing yesterday that 6 318 people in the province had died from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, which had seen 276 794 people in the province infected, representing 21% of the country’s cases. This represents a case fatality rate of 2.3%.
“KwaZulu-Natal continues to rank number one in the country in terms of the number of active cases. The province ranks as the second highest after Gauteng in terms of the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases countrywide. We are ranked the fourth highest countrywide in terms of fatalities,” he said.
EThekwini Municipality reported 44% of the recorded deaths in the province.
Of those who died, 4 826 (77%) had comorbidities, including hypertension (25%), diabetes mellitus (22%), cardiac diseases (5%) and RVD-infection (5%). Some 209 630 people had recovered from the virus, which equated to a 76% recovery rate, he said.
“During the first wave of Covid-19, we thought we had seen the worst when we spoke about being ’in the eye of the storm’ with Covid-19. But what we are seeing now is far beyond that. We are witnessing death on a catastrophic scale that has never been seen in living memory. Covid-19 is leaving a trail of lives that have been shattered beyond anyone’s comprehension," he said.
Zikalala said the province had recorded more than 6 000 new daily infections, surpassing the peak of the first wave which saw 3 000 infections per day. KZN recorded 29 147 new Infections over the past seven days, with the infection rate still rising in eThekwini, Umgungundlovu, Uthukela, Amajuba, Zululand and Umkhanyakude, Umzinyathi .
“There are days where we have seen numbers come down slightly – on Wednesday numbers went to 3 000 – but we are not treating this as a trend just yet due to the fact that the new variant is bringing surprises,” he said.
The top five districts with the highest case loads included eThekwini 141 258, uMngungundlovu 29 032, King Cetshwayo 21 712, iLembe 17 287 and uGu 15 381.
KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said she and the premier had been “inundated" with calls from people asking for the province to allow the use of ivermectin as a prophylaxis and treatment for Covid-19.
“We are unable to do so unless the drug has been approved by SAHPRA (SA Health Products Regulatory Authority). A few weeks ago, SAHPRA issued a ban. The Health Minister has been engaging with SAHPRA and they are looking at what can be done, if the drug can be used, and at what dosage. As soon as we get guidance at that level, we will be able to provide it,” she said.
Zikalala said 11 419 health care workers (HCWs), mostly nurses (55%) had been infected with Covid-19 in the public sector since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the total infected, 107 (or 1%) had succumbed to the disease.
Out of 2 905 available Covid-19 isolation beds, 2 082 (72%) were currently occupied and 115 ICU beds were allocated in public sector, 53% occupied as at January 15. So far, 4 975 patients had been admitted to hospital, of which 58% were treated in private hospitals. Of those admitted, 524 patients (or 11%) required intensive care services and private hospitals had recorded more patients in ICU (at 461/ 88%) than public facilities (63/12%).
“Our hospitals are not yet full but the numbers are increasing and the number of people succumbing to Covid-19 has also increased. We have increased our bed capacity and oxygen supply,” he said.
“We have 823 beds available in our health facilities within the province, and additional beds in our field hospitals and private facilities, at lodges and hotels," he said.
Zikala added the government was intensifying its enforcement of lockdown level 3 regulations, which he said were reducing transmission of the virus.
“The immediate impact is felt at our hospitals, where trauma units are able to focus more on Covid-19. Through our law enforcement Operation Vala, we are monitoring the non-compliance with level 3 and the illegal sale of alcohol. We continue to ask people to take care and adhere to level 3 regulations. We ask that you stay at home and avoid the risk of bringing the virus to your home,” he said.
Zikalala said intensified enforcement had included business inspections in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and other government departments.
Zikalala said 105 businesses had either been issued with notices or fines or closed for contravening regulations.
“These contraventions include failure to close at 8pm as per the regulations. Thirty-eight Illegal immigrants or undocumented persons were arrested, 94 people were arrested for failure to comply with a verbal instruction from a law officer to wear a face mask in a public place, and 62 people were arrested for either breaking the curfew, consuming alcohol in a public place or selling or distributing liquor,” Zikalala said.