The province’s Health Department head says a new variant of Covid-19, the discovery of which was announced last week, could explain increased infections across the Western Cape during the second wave of the pandemic.
Dr Keith Cloete said: “The announcement on the new variant explains the rapid increase in cases we have seen in the Garden Route, and across the rest of the province now.
“These rapid increases have put much more strain on the private and public health system compared to the first wave in June/July. The movement of holiday makers increases the risk of spreading the virus more rapidly,” said Cloete.
He said public sector hospitals were under significant strain and were functioning at near-full, or full, capacity.
“The strain is felt in critical care, in-patient wards and in the emergency centres,” he said.
On Sunday, the department announced that the 231-adult ICU/high-care beds across hospitals were fluctuating from 80-100% total capacity daily (technically full), which was placing enormous pressure on the capability of all facilities.
An additional 136 dedicated adult ICU Covid-19 beds were made available, bringing the combined ICU/high care beds to 367. As of Friday there were 2 032 total Covid-19 patients in hospital, of which 287 were in ICU/high care.
Acting director for the Northern Tygerberg sub-district, Leilah Najjaar, said: “This virus is everywhere, not only in the areas mentioned where there are concerning outbreaks. Our hospitals are under pressure in both the public and private sector. We are doing all that we can to fight this pandemic and to keep our communities safe. We call on all residents to help us stop the spread of the virus by following the rules and avoiding crowded and confined spaces. Remember to wear your mask, wash your hands, stay home when you’re sick and to keep a distance of 1.5m from others.”
MediClinic announced that it had implemented a number of measures to increase capacity to assist the growing number of patients coming in for care.
In a statement, the private hospital group said: “This dramatic increase in numbers within the Western Cape has placed very heavy strain on available health-care resources including staff, equipment and available beds to provide intensive treatment for seriously ill patients.”
Last week, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that South African scientists had identified a variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus.
The variant is a version of the Covid-19 virus. The KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform identified the virus variant after sequencing hundreds of samples of the virus and noticing that this particular variant had been dominating the findings from the samples collected in the past two months.
Clinicians also noted that younger patients with no co-morbidities had been presenting with critical illness.
Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) member Professor Ian Sanne said: “Our clinical and ICU colleagues are surprised by the number of patients in the age group of 15-25 that are needing hospitalisation and ventilation; the youngsters are at no less risk than the older generation.
“We are calling on youngsters to protect their families and themselves from Covid-19. The variant itself has not shown to be any worse than the disease but we are extremely worried about the health-care system.”
Youth leaders of political branches and activists have urged youngsters to be cautious this festive season.
ANC Youth League Western Cape activist Muhammed Khalid Sayed said: “The Youth League in the province is really concerned about the news of the Covid-19 variant, which places youth at a greater risk because, right now, many youths are sadly acting in a very carefree and selfish manner, undermining the safety regulations with the thought that this virus only affects elders. We are hoping that this latest development acts as a serious wake-up call to young people, especially during the holiday period.”
DA Youth leader Carl Pophaim said: “Now, more than ever, young people must take the lead in fighting Covid-19 and preventing its infection and transmission. Our futures are at stake. The lives of so many residents and the livelihoods of so many families. Now is the time to mask up, sanitise and social distance repeatedly in order to stop Covid-19 in its tracks.”
Young Communist League of South Africa spokesperson Dloze Matooane said: “We are extremely worried about the second wave and the fact that the second wave entrenches itself among young people. We have tried to analyse what led to the virus spreading among the youngsters and the reason for this is because of the non-adherence to regulations and parties taking place.”
Youth activist Zukile Ntentema said: “This is a time where young people need to be patriotic and ensure that they follow the basic guidelines of avoiding being in public spaces, wash hands regularly and wear a mask. We consistently say we are the future, it’s time for us to therefore protect that future by following the Covid-19 regulations as young people.”
*Article by Marvin Charles