Durban - A Hillcrest doctor who sounded the alarm regarding the high number of Covid-19 infections among teenagers returning from the Matric Rage festival said he did so because he was concerned about protecting the large community of vulnerable older people in the suburb.
This comes as Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said in an urgent notice last night that his department had identified Rage 2020 matric gatherings “super-spreader” events which took place in Ballito, Plettenberg Bay and Jeffreys Bay last week.
He also included on the list the Johannesburg event which was scheduled to take place from December 12 to 13.
“We confirm that we have now identified a number of Covid-19 confirmed cases arising from these super-spreader events. This therefore means that if you attended any of these Rage events, you are now regarded as a contact.
“We now urge all the Rage attendees to immediately go into a 10-day quarantine period as per the Department of Health Guidelines on Quarantine and Isolation,” Mkhize said.
“We also urge that all Rage attendants test for Covid-19. We also encourage parents to take their children who have attended Rage for testing as soon as possible. We warn South Africans that this is a clear illustration that large gatherings which involve the consumption of alcohol are a major risk and continue to undermine our efforts to contain the spread of the virus,” Mkhize said.
He added that the ICUs of “a few” private hospitals in Durban were full.
Dr Kams Govender of the Value Health Hillcrest Medical and Urgent Care Centre posted on his social media page on Saturday that he had experienced an influx of requests for Covid-19 tests since Thursday.
He said doctors in Durban North, Umhlanga and Ballito had also been seeing patients who had attended the festival.
Govender said he usually saw about five patients a day and this had escalated to between 40 and 50 over the past few days.
“The past 48 hours has been overwhelming as a practitioner in the Upper Highway area with an influx of teens requiring Covid-19 PCR tests.
“This has been largely due to them attending the annual matric Rage event over the last week and having multiple friends who have tested positive for Covid-19. We were overwhelmed with people who knew someone who tested positive,” he said.
“Over the past two days, we noted that 95% of the teenagers who tested were found to be Covid-19-positive, and even more worrying is that almost all were asymptomatic,” he said.
Govender said he was not concerned about the ability of his young patients to survive the virus but about the wider community.
“Usually youngsters have a robust immune system and recover very quickly with minor or no symptoms. However, this age group also tends to socialise in large groups and this will most certainly increase the spread of the virus during the festive period,” he said.
“The thing is that they will recover well, but they are going to go and see gran and I am worried about them transmitting it to the vulnerable. We have a high number of pensioners in the Highway area who are vulnerable,” he said.
He said he had conducted 120 tests by yesterday, and four grandparents had tested positive on Saturday.
He said he had also fielded calls from concerned parents regarding the way forward.
“My advice would be to all teens who attended the Rage 2020 event to be treated as high-risk exposures and therefore, as per NICD guidelines, they will need to quarantine for the next two weeks in order to control the spread of this highly infectious virus which can be fatal if passed on to a family member with co-morbid conditions as well as the elderly.
“This definitely has the potential to overburden our health-care system in KZN over the next few weeks,” he said.
He urged the youth to be responsible and minimise their movement.
Mkhize pleaded with parents to set boundaries on children’s activities.
“It is clear that in these entertainment activities most participants are not constantly conscious of good behaviour. This means that our youth are not only exposing themselves to the risk of contracting Covid-19, but they also put the lives of their parents, grandparents and other loved ones living with co-morbidities at risk,” he said.
“We continue to plead with all citizens that each individual’s behaviour will determine whether we conquer in this fight.”
Lennox Mabaso, spokesperson for KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, said the health outcome was an example of why the decision to ban big events had been taken.
“There will be an effort to establish how the organisers planned the event and whether it complied with the rules,” he said.
G and G Promotions, the organisers of Rage, could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.