Church gathering ignites 48 Covid-19 cases as virus spreads in KZN

20 December 2020 - 17:15 By philani nombembe
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KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala (middle) briefs the media on the surge of Covid-19 cases in the province.
KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala (middle) briefs the media on the surge of Covid-19 cases in the province.
Image: Supplied

A church gathering attended by more than 2,000 people has contributed to the increased rate of Covid-19 infections in KwaZulu-Natal.

Premier Sihle Zikalala said during a media briefing on Sunday that this gathering resulted in at least 48 Covid-19 infections. Zikalala added that the province had recorded a number of cluster outbreaks within health-care settings, at church gatherings, retail shops, funerals, ceremonies and parties.

“The recent cluster outbreaks in gatherings have proven to be fatal such as a church gathering that took place in Assisi Convent in Ugu District, which saw six nuns sadly succumb to Covid-19,” said Zikalala.

“Another gathering was in Kwasizabantu in Umzinyathi district, which was attended by more than 2,000 people. And I repeat — 2,000 people. It is unthinkable.

“It is hardly surprising that at least 48 of the attendees have now since tested positive. We once again wish to issue a warning to our fellow compatriots that we are now confronted by a dangerous outbreak of Covid-19 in KwaZulu-Natal. We appeal that everyone acts responsibly.”

Zikalala said the province was the fourth biggest contributor countrywide in terms of laboratory-confirmed cases. There had been a substantial increase in the number of new cases over two weeks.

“We are currently in week 51 of 2020. For week 50, the actual number of confirmed cases was 9,857, while for week 51, the number is 10,194. This marks a 4% increase of infections between week 50 and 51. Over the past week, the highest number of cases received was 2,912 on Saturday, while the average number of cases recorded daily was 2,165 cases a day,” he said.

 eThekwini district continued to record the highest number of new cases daily, and contributed about half of the total laboratory-confirmed cases provincially. He said the district had 1,625 cases.

“We are concerned at the fact that the province is experiencing an increase in the number of Covid-19 related deaths reported daily. The actual number of deaths, which occurred during week 50, was 68 and for week 51 it was 111. We must hasten to add that these are cumulative numbers — not numbers reported on a single day,” said Zikalala.

“The case fatality rate for the province was 2.4% while the mortality rate was 32 deaths per 100,000 population. eThekwini district [46 deaths per 100,000] and Amajuba district [43 deaths per 100,000] have the highest mortality rate in the province.”

Zikalala said hospital admissions had also spiked.

“As of December 18 2020, a total of 717 patients were admitted for Covid-19 and 1,274 were admitted as persons under investigation in public health facilities,” he said.

“The private hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal had 1,506 patients admitted, with the majority being in eThekwini with 1,008 patients.”

Zikalala said the department was prepared to deal with the surge of infections.

“The department has a total of 775 ventilators and 915 non–invasive ventilators. Some hospitals in the private sector have been under pressure in terms of bed availability, but the department has prepared enough beds. The situation is being reviewed on daily basis, and additional beds will be made available if a need arises,” he said.

“The department has not activated beds in private facilities for patients under investigation, but will do so if the need arises. The current turnaround time for the analysis of Covid tests with the National Health Laboratory Services is 72 hours.”

Zikalala said the province expected a decline in tourism because of the pandemic. He said the tourism sector expected a 62% decline in domestic tourism this year compared to 2019.

“This represents about 2.3 million trips in 2020 versus the 6.2 million trips recorded in 2019. The estimated spend will be R3.6bn compared to R8bn in 2019. The tourism sector is expected to recover to 2019 levels by 2022/23,” he said.

“For the 2020 festive season, December 2020 to January 2021, we are forecasting that we will receive between 600,000 and 750,000 domestic visitors. In 2019 there were about 815,000 domestic visitors for both December 2019 and January 2020.

“Following the announcement of more restrictions, including the closure of beaches and public parks on certain days, a survey was conducted on 144 accommodation establishments across the province. This was to establish the impact of the announcement on the tourism and hospitality sectors. Of those interviewed, 59% of the establishments reported to have received cancellations for the festive season.”


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