COVID-19 resurgence in the Western Cape; urgent public response required

There is an established COVID-19 resurgence in the Western Cape; urgent public response required to protect health system 

The Western Cape Government is deeply concerned about the growing number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations in the province, which can now be considered as an established resurgence.  

A resurgence is when the number of active cases increase, week-on-week, by more than 20%. Over the last week alone, the province has witnessed a 52.1% jump in new cases, with an established pattern over time. 

There is also now established community transmission of the virus again in this province, which means that it is spreading within communities at a faster rate.  

This growth is primarily driven by two districts in the Western Cape: the Garden Route and the Cape Metro.  

Last week, we issued a hotspot alert for the Garden Route, following an alarming growth of cases in the area. This surge has continued to gain momentum and there are now more active cases in George and Knysna sub-districts than at any point in the pandemic to date.  

The City of Cape Town is following a similar trajectory to this region and looks to be about 10-14 days behind. We are therefore also issuing a hotspot alert for the Metro. 

It is important to highlight that the growth in cases in the City is being recorded in every sub-district and is not being driven by any one area. This is verified by waste-water treatment testing. 

While the growth in cases province-wide has mainly been driven by these two districts, we are also worried about the Cape Winelands, which is starting to record a concerning number of new cases. 

The Overberg District, Central Karoo District and West Coast District are being closely monitored given their proximity to these hotspots.  

This established COVID-19 resurgence in the Western Cape is also reflected in the proportion of positive tests, which has now grown to 16%. This is comparable to the test positivity rate experienced in the Western Cape in early May 2020. 

My biggest concern is for our health platform, which is under growing pressure. We need to ensure that every person gets healthcare when they need it. 

Hospitalisations reached a low of under 500 in September, and they have now reached 904 as of yesterday. There are currently 431 people in public hospitals and 473 in private hospitals in the Western Cape. 

In the last 24-hour reporting period alone, the number of people being hospitalised for COVID-19 increased by a staggering 54 people.  

Our Brackengate Hospital of Hope, went from having just a few patients in September, to 109 as of today.  

In fact, since the start of November, COVID-19 hospitalisations across the province have increased by 63%. The private sector has increased by 94%, while the public sector has increased by 39%.  

Critical care admissions have increased by 75% since the start of November. This is particularly concerning as an admission to a critical care unit is an indication of severe illness that might lead to death. 

 “We need every person in the Western Cape to help prevent a lockdown and to ensure that there are enough empty beds in our hospitals for those who need them” 

We must be under no illusion as to how serious the situation is, and how quickly it can deteriorate further. 

The Western Cape Government has intentionally reintroduced key healthcare services to our facilities because we need to provide comprehensive care to everyone who needs it, not just those with COVID-19. 

This means our hospitals are already fuller than they were earlier this year, during the first wave of hospitalisations.  

We want to avoid at all costs having to once again de-escalate these essential services because this will have a detrimental impact on the health of our people. We have to save all lives, including those who don’t have COVID-19. 

We also cannot afford a lockdown again, as is being witnessed in many European countries right now. Our economy simply cannot afford it. A lockdown would kill jobs and cause our humanitarian disaster to worsen. This will also cost lives in the future.  

There is therefore only one option available to us all. We have to bring the situation under control through our own actions. We have to do everything possible to ensure that we do not get infected by COVID-19 and that we do not spread COVID-19.  

The virus is not gone but will be with us over the holidays and beyond. Therefore, we need to remain safe and protect each other by: 

  • Wearing a mask properly is of life-saving importance. You must wear your masks at all times when outside of your home. There can be no exceptions. 
  • You must avoid crowded and confined spaces at all costs. This is where super-spreader events take place. 
  • You must urgently reconsider hosting all non-essential gatherings of people this year, especially indoor gatherings with poor ventilation.   
  • You must ensure there is good ventilation at all times whenever you’re in public. The virus droplets spread by air in confined spaces, and so fresher is better.  
  • You must wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use sanitiser. 
  • If you feel sick, you should not leave your home unless it is to get healthcare treatment. You must first call our hotline on 080 928 4102 for guidance on the next steps.  
  • You should also not visit someone who is sick, and find other ways to provide support, like delivering a meal to a neighbour’s doorstep. 

Every single resident should assume that COVID-19 is everywhere they go and take all the necessary precautions at every point along their journey. 

For business owners and managers, you cannot in any way cut corners on COVID-19 safety protocols and you must abide by all the regulations. You are our best hope for policing all points of gathering, because you can ensure the behaviour needed by people when they are at your establishment. Help us keep the economy open by ensuring that your staff and customers are safe at all times. 

We all have a critical role to play over the next few weeks so that we keep our economy open and to ensure that there is a hospital bed for ourselves or our loved ones, should we need it. Let’s show the world again that we are capable of flattening the curve in the Western Cape. 

“Resurgence response plan will result in increased high visibility enforcement” 

The Western Cape, through our Disaster Joint Operations Centre, will be drastically increasing high visibility enforcement of COVID-19 regulations to help slow down the spread of the virus.  

The JOC, which has linkages to local joint operations centres across the province, is best placed to coordinate law enforcement. It has a direct link to the SAPS, as well as law enforcement and environmental officers in the Western Cape.  

We urge members of the public, businesses and other organisations to report violations of COVID-19 protocols immediately so that our teams can take action immediately.  

-You can report violations using the online complaint form available here: https://coronavirus.westerncape.gov.za/covid-19-business-safety-complaint-form

-Dial *134*234# to report non-compliance of public transport

-For COVID-19 health related queries, the provincial COVID-19 toll-free hotline number is 080 928 4102

-For general queries, the Western Cape Government's contact centre can be reached on 0860 142 142