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Second Covid-19 wave bigger than first in Western Cape, with metro worst hit

15 December 2020 - 16:11 By tanya farber
Khayelitsha is one of only three districts in the Cape metro with lower Covid-19 infections than during the frst wave.
Khayelitsha is one of only three districts in the Cape metro with lower Covid-19 infections than during the frst wave.
Image: Supplied

Khayelitsha was once the epicentre of the Covid-19 crisis in the Cape metro, but during the second wave, it is one of only three districts that has fewer cases than during the first wave. 

While Klipfontein and Mitchells Plain are also better off than during the first wave, every other district in Cape Town has reached or exceeded the numbers seen in the first wave.

Dr Keith Cloete, head of the provincial health department, said on Tuesday: “The province overall has more confirmed cases in the second wave than in the first.

"Our reported deaths and hospitalisations are going up, together with the need for oxygen. We have seen a 48% increase in the last week. Hospitalisations and deaths are starting to approximate the first wave, but actual cases already exceeded it.”

There are 1,733 Covid-19 patients in acute hospitals - 1,041 in the public sector and 692 in private facilities.

Also, said Cloete: “Covid-19 hospitalisations have increased sharply while we are experiencing trauma and psychiatric pressures.”

The “single biggest challenge remains the impact of alcohol-related trauma” and the effect of the new restrictions will be “closely monitored over the next two weeks”.

The metro has the most active cases with the southern and western districts, Tygerberg and the eastern sub-districts faring the worst.

Metro hospitals are running at an occupancy rate of 78%, and rural hospitals are at 91%.

The Garden Route has the second highest burden of cases, and the Winelands the third.

“The three badly hit areas on the Garden Route are George, Knysna and Bitou. Numbers are stabilising on the Garden Route but any superspreader event could explode that,” Cloete said.

Rural districts have also exceeded the first peak.

“Overall, an increase in hospitalisations is starting to be a problem, as is lab turnaround time and health workers being infected,” he said.

There are 493 active cases among health-care workers in the province. Cloete said 32 have been hospitalised and six have died in the past 14 days.

“When we speak about these stats, and the fact that we passed 5,000 deaths overall on Friday, we must remember each person is a loved one, a mother, a brother, a sister.”

According to premier Alan Winde, “In any place we find ourselves, whether on public transport or a beach, we need to apply common sense and make sure we are not a spreader. From the governmental side, we must keep enough hospital beds in place. Every time people don’t keep their side of the bargain, it puts extra pressure on the system.”

The strategy to make sure there are enough hospital beds has also included decentralising capacity, and to this end, the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) field hospital is not being reinstated so capacity can be deployed closer to where people need it.

“In the first peak, we set up 860 beds at the CTICC. We had to staff it with workers from agencies, those on short contracts, those coming in from KwaZulu-Natal,” said Cloete.

Despite all this, only 400 beds could come online because of staff shortages.

When the first wave subsided, occupancy went down and “Brackengate [in Brackenfell] was established as a field hospital”.

It has 338 beds and is the field hospital strategy for the second wave, but the department is also upscaling capacity around the province.

“Bringing in all additional capacity in different areas is what helped us stabilise infections in the Garden Route,” said Cloete, “and this becomes legacy infrastructure for after Covid-19 is fully under control.”