Fourth wave

Steepest Covid rise to date as Omicron spreads in all provinces, says minister

Breakthrough infections in health workers who must isolate is a problem

03 December 2021 - 09:18
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla says Omicron is now in all provinces. File photo.
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla says Omicron is now in all provinces. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

The wave of Covid-19 fueled by Omicron is seeing mainly mild cases in those vaccinated, but shows “a very steep rise - steeper than the rise and curve from previous waves”, health minister Joe Phaala told a media briefing on Friday.

In just a week, daily cases have risen by around 9,000, breaching the 11,000 mark on Thursday. Just under 3,000 people have been hospitalised.

“We hope that the mild nature of the illness will continue to be the dominant feature. We are doing everything possible to make sure we can handle serious illness, but one change threatening to destabilise us is that health workers, even though they are vaccinated, are having mild symptoms from breakthrough infections and are having to isolate.”

This leads to “possible shortages” and so “we have to address this phenomenon”, said Phaahla.

The positivity rate is 22%, up from the lows of 1% or 2% two weeks ago.

The exponential increase has mainly taken place in Gauteng, but is now gaining momentum in all nine provinces.

“Over the last seven days the new spike has moved into the whole of Gauteng [after starting in Tshwane] and is now registering a presence in all provinces.”

The two least hit provinces are the Free State and the Northern Cape, but even they are seeing a positivity rate above 5% which is higher than what the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers safe.

“There is limited data, but the indication is that it is highly transmissible and includes infections of people who are vaccinated. But, it is causing mainly mild illness in those who are vaccinated.

“Hospital admissions are dominated by those who are unvaccinated and especially those below 40 who are unvaccinated.”

Hospitals are not yet in crisis.

“Even in Gauteng, which accounts for up to 80% of new daily infections, we have not yet reached threatening stages in terms of hospital capacity. There is still significant capacity in both public and private hospitals,” he said.

About 36,8% of adults are fully vaccinated and the Free State is the first to have reached the 50% mark.

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