Message to residents of the Western Cape from Premier Alan Winde

Earlier today, the Western Cape cabinet received our weekly update on the COVID-19 situation in the province. Looking at the data today, I am overwhelmed with gratitude towards you, the residents of this province and our health care workers for everything you have done  to save lives and ensure a sustained decline of the second wave.  

All of the key COVID-19 indicators in the province have shown significant declines. 

  • The seven day average for new infections has shown a 44% decline and we now stand at 11 570 active cases, compared with 44 303 active cases on 11 January.
  • The R number, or the reproductive rate of the virus has fallen below 1 in the province and now stands at 0.5.
  • The test positivity rate, an important measure, has declined from 50.1% at the 2nd peak to 13.9% at the end of January.
  • We have over the past seven days seen a 42% decline in admissions to hospital.
  • A total of 2330 people are currently hospitalized in the province, after a high of 3528 on 13 January.
  • Our hospitals in the Metro currently stand at 79% occupancy, 59% in the George Drainage area, 71% in the Paarl drainage area and 63% in the Worcester drainage area, against a high of 105% in the metro, 90% in George, 93% in Paarl and 87% in Worcester on 22 December.
  • We now have 447 patients in ICU and high care across public and private healthcare, down from 534 on 18 January.
  • Total oxygen use in the province has dropped to 67 tonnes, of which approximately 30 tonnes are being used in the public sector, compared to a peak of 80 tonnes per day reached early in January. This now brings us back under the 70 tonne threshold which is produced daily in the province.
  • There are currently 82 patients in the Brackengate Hospital of Hope, compared to around 300 at the peak.  At the Mitchell’s Plain Hospital of Hope, 61 of the total 200 beds are occupied.
  • At the height of the 2nd wave, 1029 healthcare workers were infected with COVID-19. This number now stands at 267 and is dropping daily.
  • The number of deaths has also fallen by 31% over the past seven days.

     

The second wave we experienced in the Western Cape was severe- surpassing the peak of the first wave- primarily driven by the new, highly transmissible variant of the virus. This caused enormous pressure on health platforms during this time. 

The Western Cape Government, and our partners, have worked hard to provide the resources- beds, staff and oxygen needed to ensure that we could manage the peak of the second wave. We did not run out of any of these crucial life-saving resources. But we could not have done it without you and our brave health care workers. 

By sticking to the regulations, avoiding gatherings, wearing your mask, keeping your distance and being responsible, every single person has contributed to these reductions and we can all be very proud.  

I know it has been hard. Many have lost loved ones and you have had to mourn differently during this time. We mourn with you and we send our condolences to all those who have lost their family members, friends, and colleagues during this time. 

You have given up spending time with loved ones over the festive season. You have cancelled holidays and birthday celebrations. Some of you will have had to cancel weddings. I want to thank you for making these sacrifices for the greater good. 

Businesses have been hard hit- you’ve had to change your trading hours, and how you do business. Sadly, many have had to close their doors. Thank you for fighting to save jobs, for doing everything you can to trade safely, and for trusting us to fight for you. 

NGOs, faith based organisations, businesses and individuals have stepped in to help provide food, and assistance in communities. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.  I want to say a special thank you to the Gift of the Givers, who have partnered with this government in both the first and second waves to provide healthcare resources and assistance.  

To the teachers, law enforcement and police officers, social workers and all those essential workers who have gone to work every day throughout this pandemic to provide services to the people of this province, thank you! 

Finally, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to our healthcare workers. You have been warriors throughout this pandemic. I know that you have sacrificed time with your loved ones, you have worked long hours even though you were tired and scared, and you have put your own health at risk so that you can save lives. Our hospitals experienced extreme pressure at the peak, and our healthcare workers continue to experience the emotional and physical toll of tending to those who are still in hospital. 

We have lost 113 health care workers since the start of the pandemic. These losses are devastating for families, colleagues and communities, and for us. 

We have made it this far because of the efforts of every single individual but our work is not done yet. 

The revised restrictions will give us all a bit more freedom and will help businesses to resume operating more normally but we need to be responsible. Just as we have all worked to overcome the peak of this second wave, we need to continue to work to save lives. 

We will soon start rolling out the first batches of vaccines but it will take time for the province to vaccinate enough people to achieve herd immunity.  

In the meantime, we should all continue to be cautious- wear your mask, keep up good hand and surface hygiene and avoid close contact with others.  

Our beaches and parks are open now and I encourage you all to enjoy them, but please do so safely. 

Similarly, if you are visiting restaurants or businesses where alcohol is sold such as bars, taverns and wine farms, drink responsibly so that we can keep our communities and roads safe and reduce trauma in our hospitals. 

Businesses who are trading also have a responsibility to ensure that staff and customers are safe by ensuring all the correct COVID-19 protocols are in place, keeping windows or doors open to allow fresh air to circulate, and ensuring that there is no overcrowding and social distancing can take place. 

We have lived with this pandemic for almost a year and every single one of our lives have changed. We must continue to do everything we can to achieve the balance we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones, while also ensuring that people are able to return to work and school, to earn a living and to access healthcare and other government services.