2 270 new Covid-19 cases, but Prof Abdool Karim assures SA not in a second wave right now
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Cape Town - The cumulative total of Covid-19 cases in South Africa is 767 679 with 2 270 new cases identified since the last report, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Sunday.
Mkhize said 58 deaths have been reported: Eastern Cape 28, Free State 13 , Gauteng 8 and Western Cape 9. This brings the total to 20 903 deaths.
The cumulative number of tests conducted to date is 5 290 966 with 21 904 new tests conducted since the last report.
South Africa’s recoveries now stand at 710 099 which translates to a recovery rate of 92,5%.
As the festive season approaches health experts have cautioned that reckless action could lead to super-spreader events and increased infections in rural parts of the country.
The number of reported cases had remained stable for a few weeks with cases averaging under 2 000.
But last week various cluster outbreaks had sparked an increase in reported cases. The biggest hotspot areas had been in the Eastern Cape, Free State and the Western Cape.
Even with the rising cluster outbreaks, the head of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee Professor Salim Abdool Karim said South Africa was not in a second wave and was not on its way there.
He cautioned about alarmist rhetoric and said on average case numbers in most areas in the country were low.
"South Africa is not in a second wave right now and it is not entering a second wave right now. We have an outbreak in the Eastern Cape and in the garden route area of the Western Cape.
"If those outbreaks are not effectively controlled we run the risk of going into a second wave. We are actually in a good position of low transmission in the rest of the country," Abdool Karim said on Sunday morning.
Similar sentiments were shared by SA Medical Research Council member Professor Glenda Gray who said what was happening in the Eastern Cape was a classic case of community transmission being driven by super-spreader events.
She said rising cases were not unusual at the moment and were part of pandemic patterns.
"The ongoing transmission will always continue until we have a vaccine or herd immunity. There will be events that will cause super-spreading outbreaks. Super-spreader events drive transmissions even further and affect people who were not affected in the first phase of the pandemic," Gray said.
Gray and Abdool Karim said they were concerned about the festive season and people going to areas that were unaffected by the virus - particularly rural areas.
"My concern is the December period when there are three things that are going to happen that worry me. Firstly that people become complacent while on holiday and they stop wearing their masks and not do social distance and the second thing is they start going to parties and we will end up with super-spreader events.
"The third is I am very worried about inter-generational family gatherings, children are meeting their parents and grandparents and putting the elderly at risk. So those are the three things that I am deeply concerned about over December and those three things could end us up with a second wave in January," he cautioned.
Abdool Karim said how citizens behave will be the ultimate marker for what happens next.
"We have to control our own behaviour if we do not want to be in a second wave in January."
Gray said: "So what we have to do is make sure that when you do go back to places in the country that were not affected, you continue to practise your social distancing, wear masks and handwashing.
"We are most concerned about people that are old and have comorbidities. So when people go back to see their loved ones they should remember that it is their duty to protect those people so they do not get Covid," she said.
The government, through President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mkhize, had indicated that there was a possibility that cluster outbreaks in different regions could necessitate a lockdown for those areas. But there has been no action on this measure.
Abdool Karim said stay-at-home orders (lockdowns) could only be useful in extreme situations and that the current measures being applied were sufficient to keep cases low - if adhered to.
"Stay at home orders are only something that should be considered as a last resort. Right now we have many tools that we can use to control the spread of the virus.
"It is (stay-at-home orders) not something that would readily be considered at any time soon. It would be something that we would think about if the hospitals are being overwhelmed and the spread is uncontrolled and people are not listening. It would have to be at a very advanced stage as a last resort," he said.