Looting puts SA's entire health system at risk amid third wave, Western Cape warns

15 July 2021 - 11:25
By dave chambers AND Dave Chambers
People wait for their Covid-19 jabs at a Discovery mass vaccination site in Midrand. Gauteng's reproduction rate has fallen below one, meaning its third wave has peaked.
Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg People wait for their Covid-19 jabs at a Discovery mass vaccination site in Midrand. Gauteng's reproduction rate has fallen below one, meaning its third wave has peaked.

The entire country's healthcare system is at risk from the disruption of supply chains caused by this week's looting and violence in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape health chiefs warned on Thursday.

Head of health Keith Cloete said there were “significant risks for the entire supply chain”, including the delivery of medicines, as the third wave of Covid-19 approaches its peak in most of the country.

Speaking at a Covid-19 media briefing chaired by premier Alan Winde, Cloete said the national health department was considering what to do with vaccination supplies earmarked for KwaZulu-Natal, where looting has severely disrupted the rollout.

While no decision had been made, Cloete said the Western Cape was preparing for an influx of vaccine doses if KwaZulu-Natal's allocation was redistributed. Supply chain officials were looking for alternative sources of non-pharmaceutical supplies such as fuel.

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo also warned of a national “domino effect” after attacks on health facilities and supply chains in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Though no incidents of looting had been reported in the Western Cape by Thursday morning, according to Winde, Mbombo said taxi violence was adding to the strain on the health system.

Shootings perpetrated in the war between taxi organisations Cata and Codeta had resulted in 10 people with gunshot wounds requiring treatment, including emergency surgery, at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town this week, she said.

About 280 people with Covid-19 are being admitted to Western Cape hospitals daily, Cloete said, and 22% of hospital beds in the province are now occupied by patients with the virus.

However, the number of trauma cases has decreased by 26% since the introduction of a ban on alcohol sales on June 27, and weekend trauma cases are 34% lower.

Cloete said while the Covid-19 reproduction number in Gauteng had fallen below 1 as the province's third wave passed its peak, in the Western Cape it is still 1.1, meaning every 10 infected people infect another 11.

Confirmed Covid-19 cases had increased by 13.5% in the last week, daily deaths were averaging around 60 and the test positivity rate was 32%.

Cluster outbreaks had been seen among healthcare workers who congregated for smoke breaks, at a farm, in a distillery and in old-age homes, he said.

However, the third wave was shaping up to be less acute than the second, at the same time as the daily number of vaccinations administered in the Western Cape exceeded 30,000 on Wednesday for the first time.

Vaccine registrations have been recorded among 61% of over-60s in the Western Cape, and 33.1% of over-50s, but Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain and the Central Karoo have emerged as the health districts with the lowest registration rates. Cloete said they would be the focus of targeted interventions.

Mbombo said “pop-up” vaccination sites had been successfully operated for the first time at Sassa paypoints in areas including Philippi and Delft, and more were planned.