Johannesburg – South Africa faces a high risk of resurging coronavirus infections that may lead to a review by the council deciding on lockdowns, after new cases rose by 42% in Western Cape province in the last two weeks, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday.
Mkhize said in a statement the increase in infections and deaths "will inform the recommendations that the Health Department makes to the National Coronavirus Council", the body that determines the different levels of lockdown restrictions.
"According to our resurgence plan, we define this significant spike in new cases in the Western Cape as a resurgence," said Mkhize, adding nationally infections in the last two week had risen 10.7%, which was also a "concerning trend".
Mkhize said the cause of the spike in the Western Cape was a "super-spreader event" at a bar in southern Cape Town. The city was originally the epicentre of South Africa's first wave of infections.
Mkhize who on Sunday announced he and his wife had tested positive for the coronavirus said they were improving each day.
“I remain in quarantine at home, I am resting and recuperating with only a cough remaining from my previous symptoms. I’m also very pleased that my wife has been discharged from hospital today and will now be joining me for quarantine at home.”
South Africa, which has the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on the continent at more than 700 000 infections, eased lockdown restrictions to their lowest level in September as the rate of new cases fell.
The country also opened its borders to international travellers at the beginning of October after a six-month ban, in what was one the world's strictest lockdowns that included restrictions on movement, economic activities and the sale of alcohol and tobacco.
The lockdown cost the country more than 2 million jobs in second quarter, while the economy shrunk by its most on record.
Read the full statement by Dr Zweli Mkhize
I wish to take this opportunity and appreciate all the well wishes that my wife and I have received from you, my fellow South Africans, colleagues and friends from all over the world. I want to assure you that we are improving each day. I remain in quarantine at home, I am resting and recuperating with only a cough remaining from my previous symptoms. I’m also very pleased that my wife has been discharged from hospital today and will now be joining me for quarantine at home.
In a war, when an injured soldier lies down to recover, injuries do not remove his mindset from the set goal to win the battle. He uses such an opportunity to reflect on the battle and also to think ahead for when he rejoins the army. Like a soldier, I find myself in that position as we continue to fight this battle against Covid-19 as a country.
This morning, after reading and analyzing our country’s epidemiological reports, as the Minister of Health, I cannot help but be concerned. Fellow South Africans, when we emphasize that the risk of a resurgence remains high, we do not do so to instill fear in you. As government, we have a responsibility to alert you when we see concerning trends. It would be irresponsible of us to ignore “small flames” that we see redeveloping in some parts of the country. You will recall that a few months ago when we witnessed these trends, it wasn’t long before we started experiencing a burden in our health system.
I wish to bring to the attention of all South Africans that our epidemiological reports are showing that in the country, over the last 7 days there has been an increase of 9.1% in new cases. Similarly, over the last 14 days, there has been an increase of 10.7%.
We are also seeing concerning increases in some of the provinces. To illustrate this, in the last 7 days, there was a marked increase in the number of new cases in the Western Cape. The Province recorded a 42% increase in new infections. According to our resurgence plan, we define this significant spike in new cases in the Western Cape as a resurgence. The Western Cape Provincial Health Department has identified specific clusters that are responsible for the increase in cases, and has advised that each of these clusters has been investigated and a detailed outbreak response is being mounted. We have noted that the single biggest cluster outbreak has been identified to be in the Southern Sub-district in the Cape Metro, and this has been associated with a super-spreader event in a bar. We await further reports from the WC Health response teams who are now required to target the sub-districts with a high increase of new cases over the last two weeks.
We are now encouraging all provinces to pay attention to these increasing numbers and quickly mount a response, including contact tracing and quarantine.
We must mention that the rate of new infections and deaths will inform the recommendations that the Health Department makes to the National Coronavirus Council. As we continue to monitor the development of a vaccine, the only weapon we possess as a country is our social behaviour and constant adherence to health protocols. All of us must take this responsibility and always encourage those around us.
We must also take heed of the major lessons from the Covid-19 that is despite the anxiety, the psychological trauma, the physical suffering and grief from lives we lost, Covid-19 has reawakened our deep values of Ubuntu in us all. We have been reminded to care more, love more, emphathise with our families, friends, colleagues and even those we hear about in the media. This is the same spirit that we must carry in fighting all other social and health ills facing our society, including gender based violence.