Johannesburg - The second wave of the coronavirus could be worse than the first wave South Africa experienced from July, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has warned.
Mkhize on Wednesday night declared that South Africa had entered a second wave after a rapid rise in cases in four provinces, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KZN and Gauteng.
The rise in cases in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape was considerably higher, at about 2 000 cases as per the seven-day average projections, while in KZN and Gauteng it was just under 1000 cases.
On Wednesday night, the Health Ministry announced over 6 000 new infections.
“The majority of new cases today are from the Western Cape (30%) followed by Eastern Cape (24%) then KZN which accounted for 23%; and Gauteng accounted for 17%.
“The Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West each accounted for 1% of new cases respectively while Northern Cape accounted for less than 1%
“It is important to make this distinction because since the end of September we were seeing most of our numbers coming down to as low as 1000, but now the numbers are increasing, they first started at about 2000, but now they have moved much higher than that.
“We have breached 6 000 in terms of new cases and the total new cases today identified is 6 709 thus giving us a total of 828 598 cumulative cases today,” said Mkhize.
The last time South Africa had over 6 000 new infections, was on August 14, where there were 6 275 new infections. At that stage, the country was on level 3 of the lockdown restrictions.
Meanwhile, in terms of active cases, South Africa had just over 51 000 known Covid-19 positive patients as of Wednesday night.
Mkhize said the four provinces - EC, WC, KZN and GP - also had the four highest cumulative cases in the country, which amounted to 79.5% of all cases in the country as of Wednesday night.
“When we were in the plateau, for every batch of 100, we had a positivity rate of 10%, so this was the ideal that our ministerial advisory committee had recommended that would mean we are still stable.
“As of today, the positivity rate is now at 18%, but if you go province-by-province, you actually find that some provinces are much higher than the 18% positivity rate,” said Mkhize.
Relying on the 7-day average graph between November 12 and December, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KZN and Gauteng, had rapid increase - with the Eastern Cape and Western Cape showing almost 2000 new cases and the KZN and Gauteng showing just under 1000 new cases.
“This rise is showing that there is going to be exponential growth and we must expect faster rising numbers with a higher peak possibly higher than the first wave,” said Mkhize.
In terms of the virus, by age, the 14-19 and 35-39 age categories had the most new infections with 10%, followed by the 45-49, 30-34 and 25-29, who all had 9% of the new infections.
People aged 40-44 and 20-24 accounted for 8% of new infections.
“In the last two days the age distribution of new cases showed a different pattern from the norm: the peak age in this period is in the 15-19 age group. This is believed to be due to large number of parties involving young people drinking alcohol with no adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions, ie wearing of masks, social distancing and hand and surface sanitiing.
“This inevitably leads to super spreader events which spill over into the rest of the country as this age group is highly mobile and the majority of the carriers are asymptomatic.
“If this trajectory continues our health care system will be overwhelmed by the numbers. Hence part of the recommendations that are being tabled by provinces themselves is that large gatherings and parties must be urgently curtailed,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize said he had written letters to all health MECs calling on them to prepare for a second wave and to ensure that the provinces were equipped for faster turnaround times in terms of testing and for them to recall field hospitals in anticipation for a fierce Covid-19 storm.
To date, over 5.6 million tests have been conducted - along with just over 38 000 in the past 24 hours and the recovery rate stands at 91.5%. Virus related deaths now stand at 22 574.
Mkhize said district municipalities and provincial governments had been asked to make submissions about how they planned to manage the festive season, which would be considered by the Ministerial Advisory Committee, the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet.
Mkhize called on the public to exercise restraint during the festive season, and called on people to continually wear masks, keep a social distance and sanitize.
“We have requested all the provinces to give us suggestions about what needs to be done as we manage the festive season.
“Yes, the festive season is a time to enjoy, but we must enjoy with restraint and not to the detriment of other South Africans who may even lose their lives, that is not a responsible way to enjoy ourselves,” said Mkhize.