Cape Town - Summer is in the air, but so is coronavirus.
Yesterday, the Western Cape passed the grim milestone of 5 000 deaths due to Covid-19.
In addition, the number of daily new cases within the past week has shot higher than the peak of the first wave.
“Where we are today has exceeded where we were at the highest point in June,” said Western Cape Health Department spokesman Mark van der Heever. “Our second wave has surpassed where we were at the first peak.”
As we head into the third week of December in the midst of the second wave, the province’s health services are bracing to deal with the twin pandemics of Covid-19 and festive season trauma.
By the end of November, there had been a 409% increase in Covid-19 patients who were hospitalised, and in the same period, a 36% increase in trauma admissions.
“In addition to the Covid pandemic, as we move towards the festive season, we will encounter a second pandemic – an increase in alcohol-related trauma cases,” the provincial Health Department said in a statement yesterday.
“The increase in trauma cases can mean less beds to treat Covid patients. One of the main drivers of this continues to be the abuse of alcohol.”
In the past week alone from 3-10 December, 12 569 new positive cases were identified and 1154 people had to be admitted to hospital, according to yesterday’s update. In addition, 245 health-care workers were newly infected.
Premier Alan Winde said that 35 new deaths were recorded yesterday.
“Since we recorded our first death on 27 March this year, 5 005 people have succumbed to this virus,” Winde said. “Each of these people started 2020 with plans, dreams and aspirations, and each of them leave behind family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues who have been devastated by this loss.
“Among these 5 000 were parents, siblings, partners, husbands, wives, friends, grandparents. The number includes breadwinners, caregivers, people who have contributed to this province and their communities for years, and others who were just starting to build their lives and their careers.”
Winde highlighted that the deaths have not been limited to the very elderly.
“Although the elderly are most at risk of severe Covid-19, more than 40% of our deaths have been in people younger than 60. This includes more than 120 people younger than 30, almost 900 people aged between 30 and 50 and over 1000 people aged 50 to 59.
“Our health services have also been deeply affected. In this International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we have lost 67 health-care workers, a third of whom are nurses.”
Earlier this week, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that South Africa is officially in a second wave of Covid-19, with the Western Cape contributing the highest number of new cases.
Especially concerning is the exponential increase in cases in some provinces after super-spreader events amongst young people, suggesting that the peak of the second wave will likely be even worse than the first.
“This means that we should expect faster rising numbers with a higher peak than in the first wave,” Mkhize said.
Van der Heever said that hospitals and primary-care facilities in the province will be considering dialling back their services again in order to free up capacity for Covid patients, but that will be managed by each facility according to capacity and demand.
Dr Saadiq Kariem, chief of operations for the WC Health Department said that oxygen is in good supply at the moment.
“The Western Cape has a sufficient supply of oxygen at all our facilities. Currently we are using 46% of our maximal capacity, this translates to about 24.4 tons of oxygen that we use daily and is, by comparison, a 100% increase in the average daily oxygen consumption when compared to pre-March 2020 levels”.
Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division, said that the increase in demand had been seen in the private sector as well.
“While we have seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, mainly in hotspot areas, Netcare hospitals countrywide have capacity to attend to any members of the public requiring medical assistance.
“Fortunately, rapid advances in medical understanding of Covid-19 have generated tremendous progress in treatment modalities, and specialists and hospitals are now better equipped to treat the disease.”