Districts with high number of Covid-19 cases to be classified as hotspots, says Mkhize
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Johannesburg - Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says dealing with coronavirus spread will move on to monitoring and classifying areas based on levels of infections, with some being classified as “hotspots”.
Mkhize said there was little value of the stringent measures in areas where infections had been low. He said now particular areas, based on districts, will be identified and interventions would be aligned based on the burden of infections.
Districts with low cases would still be monitored in case any changes take place. He was speaking during a webinar with industry experts in the epidemiology field who have drawn up modelling for the country’s possible projection of cases over the long term and short term.
As of May 19, the country had recorded 17 200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 312 deaths.
The modelling was compiled by doctors and professors from the Modelling and Simulation Hub, Africa (MASHA), South African DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA), Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office (HERO), the Boston University of Public Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
The short-term projections showed that the country could see 500 deaths by the end of May.
The country’s peak of infections could be in July or August. Long term projections painted a grim picture with over 40 000 deaths likely by November and over 1 million infections. Dr Sheetal Silal of the Modeling and Simulation Hub said that in the short term seeding of the country's cases had varied by regions, but over time the number of cases was expected to level out across the country.
Mkhize said as talks about the move to Level 3 continued, what would change is that some areas would be closely monitored and designated as “hot spots” with high infections.
Some of these areas include: Joburg Metro, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town, eThekwini, Buffalo City, Nelson Mandela Bay, Chris Hani District, Cape Winelands District and Lembe District in KwaZulu-Natal.
He said hotspots would remain on level 4 with screening and testing being ramped up in those areas with restrictions. He said every two weeks the performance of the districts would be monitored and readjusted based on alert levels and depending on the caseload.
Hotspots will be approached in the following manner:
- Districts with clusters with rapidly increasing cases
Need to intervene to contain the rapid rise
- Sub-divide the district into sub-districts or wards
- Deploy teams of health experts to analyse and support the district to implement enhanced activities to contain transmission (test, isolate/quarantine, treat)
- Deploy multidisciplinary teams to support the implementation of any restrictions that may be necessary to contain the spread (including curbing the movement of people)
- Hard lockdown will only be considered if all other measures fail to contain the spread of the virus
The minister said he would identify alert levels to be followed by districts and this would be based on information provided by the various provincial command councils give details on how they will monitor and contain infections within identified districts.
The National Coronavirus Command Council, which consists of ministers and President Cyril Ramaphosa, will then confirm the alert levels and monitor whether provinces are doing enough to contain the spread of the virus.