The Western Cape has the country’s highest number of COVID-19 infections, and as new cases emerge each day, many are questioning why the virus seems to be spreading so rapidly here.
Premier Alan Winde addressed the residents of the Cape, and highlighted many important aspects in the fight against coronavirus.
“The transmission has been concentrated around essential services clusters (which have been permitted to operate under all levels of lockdown), care homes and in geographical areas where people who work in these clusters live and this has mostly been in the poorest communities in Cape Town. Our hotspot intervention strategy focuses our combined efforts in these targeted areas,” Winde said.
He added that the virus is spreading faster in certain geographical areas. These include the City of Cape Town and the Witzenberg region.
“This was a new phase that we had entered, where the number of infections would climb at a faster rate, pushing our curve up towards a peak,” the Premier said. “This is precisely what will continue to happen in the weeks ahead, and which will happen around the country, a few weeks after us.”
“Our focus here is to protect vulnerable people who are at high risk, and to prevent deaths. We cannot stop the virus from spreading, and many people will be infected countrywide.”
The current status in the Cape Metro is as follows:
– The Cape is on the upward part of the curve as per the nature of the pandemic and is expecting to see case numbers increase more rapidly, with associated increases in hospitalisation and deaths.
– Testing/lab capacity is under severe strain. The National Health Laboratory, which is mandated to perform all public tests, simply doesn’t have the capacity to test and return tests quickly enough, for the government to intervene with speed as these numbers grow.
– The number of undetected cases will continue to grow unless major increases in testing capacity is provided.
As a result of resource constraints, and the scientific reality that the virus cannot be stopped, the targeted health hotspot response in the Metro will now be focused on the following initiatives:
– Emphasis on case management with a view to early detection of deterioration in health status through risk stratification.
– Increased focus on mass communication and building agency for behaviour change – individuals and organisations (across sectors). Residents need to show greater compliance with the rules and recommendations set out by government through lasting behaviour change.
– Re-purpose Community Screening and Testing, and Community Health Workers, towards this goal.
– Community Screening and Testing focused on reaching high risk groups such as the elderly and those with co-morbid conditions.
“We will also use our testing to make sure we get results for those patients in hospitals so that we can quickly know whether they have COVID-19. This is important to ensure the correct treatment,” Winde said. “Global data, and our local experience tells us that some 90% of people will not require hospitalisation, only experiencing a mild illness. However, some 10% require hospitalisation, and around 1,8% will die. But remember – and this is important to bear in mind – this also means that 98.2% will survive this.”
Of those that die, 96% have an underlying health condition such as HIV, Diabetes, Hypertension or Tuberculosis.
This health response will also be combined with interventions by other leading departments in the Western Cape Government, and local government partners such as the City of Cape Town and SAPS, including the following additional responses:
– Economic Response
– Safety Response
– Food security & Humanitarian Response
– Places and Spaces Response
– Transport Response
– Resource management
A key component of this plan is the need to effect behaviour change, so that people adapt to the “new normal”. COVID-19 is going to be around for some time, and residents need to learn to live in ways that slows the spread and protects vulnerable people at highest risk. While many people will only have a mild illness, they could pass it onto someone who could get seriously ill and die.
“We simply cannot do it alone. Every single person can help us in our effort, by staying home as much as possible, keeping a distance at all times, avoiding gatherings of people wherever it may occur, by always following the golden rules of good hygiene, and by properly wearing a clean cloth mask whenever out in public,” Winde said.
Those that get sick are advised to stay home and avoid infecting others, and to seek urgent healthcare if they are battling to breathe. Advice is available on the dedicated hotline: 021 928 4102.
“We cannot return to “business as usual”, and I will not support that as Premier of this province. We will continue to lead major interventions, as set out above, in hotspot areas to protect vulnerable communities and to save lives. This is our top priority,” Winde said.
“If we stay on Alert Level 4, it will be even greater as more and more businesses close and people become unemployed. This will indirectly impact millions of people across our province. We have no choice but to allow more economic activity over time, in a safe and responsible manner, so that people don’t starve. If we do not do this, lives will be lost in the future.”