'Covid storm is here': Gauteng now has the most active cases

Premier signals stricter lockdown restrictions may come under discussion

02 July 2020 - 13:15 By Nonkululeko Njilo
The grave sites of South Africans who succumbed to Covid-19 at Westpark Cemetery, Johannesburg, on June 28 2020.
The grave sites of South Africans who succumbed to Covid-19 at Westpark Cemetery, Johannesburg, on June 28 2020.

Covid-19 was contracted by another 3,063 people, while 28 more succumbed to the illness over the past 24 hours in Gauteng - as the province says it has too few hospital beds for the coming months and a return to stricter lockdown restrictions may come under discussion.

The cumulative number of infections has reached 45,944, the provincial department of health said on Thursday.

There have been 12,957 recoveries and 244 deaths. 

“June has seen a sharp spike in confirmed cases daily. Gauteng now has the most active cases. Hospitalisation has also increased exponentially in the past 14 days,” premier David Makhura said in a presentation.

Though the mortality rate is still low, it is increasing, he said.

With 35,166 active cases, Gauteng has 44% of the national total for current infections compared with Western Cape, which is next at 22%. Of the total number of infections, the Western Cape still leads with 40% of the cases nationally, compared with Gauteng's 29%.

Johannesburg districts had the most active Covid-19 cases in Gauteng.
Johannesburg districts had the most active Covid-19 cases in Gauteng.
Image: Gauteng provincial command council

Health services and health workers are beginning to bear the brunt of the coronavirus as the caseload increases, the premier said. “The pandemic is running ahead of the projected peak of September.”

Makhura told a news briefing that behavioural change could mitigate and minimise the impact of the pandemic. 

“The Covid-19 storm has arrived in Gauteng, but it is within our power, within our capacity, as the people of this province, every sector without exception, to do something to ensure we weather the storm,” he said. “There’s no doubt about the storm, it is here, but the critical issue is that we have to look at a number of interventions to help us weather the storm. The interventions will be informed by the advisory committee in terms of their full impact, we don’t want to do something for dramatic purposes but without achieving the results,” he said.

Makhura cautioned the province's residents that a return to a stricter lockdown from the current level 3 was a possibility.

He said: “But it is quite clear that we are going to have some of the things, given where we are now, that are essentially extraordinary and some of them may mean asking the national command council to introduce some of the restrictions we have had in the earlier phases.”

While the health system is coping with immediate hospital care, Dr Mary Kawonga, senior specialist in public health medicine at the department of community health, said a gap analysis indicated there are not sufficient hospital beds to meet the expected need.

“The available critical care and general ward beds are not sufficient to meet the predicted demand for Covid-19 hospitalisation in the medium term and at the peak.

“The Gauteng department of health needs to create additional bed capacity: 410 critical care and 1,091 general ward beds before July 31; 2,027 critical care beds and 5,948 general ward beds before the peak in early September,” she told the briefing.

Kawonga said the analysis revealed that the available critical care and general ward beds in the public sector are sufficient to meet the predicted short-term demand for hospitalisation of Covid-19 cases.

Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said the numbers of patients being treated in public and private hospitals in the province is now 3,091 - an increase of 110 overnight. 

A breakdown showed that:   

  • Johannesburg had 22,388 cases, 125 deaths and 7,328 recoveries; 
  • Ekurhuleni had 9,845 cases, 40 deaths and 2,901 recoveries; 
  • Tshwane had 7,235 cases 37 deaths and 1,707 recoveries.  

Johannesburg South, Doornkop, Soweto, Dobsonville and Protea Glen were among the hardest-hit areas. 

Kekana said 1,805 cases remained unallocated to districts.

“Unallocated cases in the district breakdown refer to confirmed cases in Gauteng that are yet to be allocated to one of the five districts in the province. The unallocated cases reflected in the subdistrict breakdown refer to cases confirmed in that district but [which] have not been allocated to a subdistrict. 

“Allocating Gauteng cases to respective districts is ongoing. After obtaining further information on contact numbers and addresses from law enforcement agencies, provincial outbreak teams and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), we are able to make corrections where a case might have been incorrectly allocated to a particular district,” she said.

A total of 30,788 people had been traced after coming into contact with confirmed positive cases and just more than 20,000 had been cleared after two weeks of monitoring.