The story of a COVID-19 “super-spreader event”: young residents & businesses need to play their part in staying safe, so that we can keep on moving forward

Over the last few weeks, the Western Cape Department of Health has implemented its surveillance strategy, to ensure that we continue to detect Covid-19 clusters as they emerge. This will allow us to fight ‘bushfires’ and contain the spread of the virus.  

Our teams are constantly monitoring for new clusters, or areas of Covid-19 spread, that might then result in new hotspots emerging where people live. By identifying the clusters, our teams can intervene, trace the contacts and ensure quarantine and isolation. 

This is the critical part of the work that we must continue to do as this global pandemic continues.  

Indeed, while we have passed our peak in the Western Cape, we must not let our guard down. As long as there is even one Covid-19 infection, it will be possible for the virus to spread to other people. The virus is still out there, and it remains important that we keep ourselves safe. 

If we don’t do this, it is possible that we will also experience a new wave of infections in the future, as is being witnessed elsewhere in the world. This will be detrimental to our efforts to grow the economy, save jobs and address our humanitarian crisis. By staying safe, we move forward. 

Thus far, there is one clear pattern in clusters that we have detected: the people involved didn’t behave in a way that was needed to keep themselves and others safe, by either not wearing their masks properly or at all, or by attending large gatherings where distancing and ventilation is difficult or even impossible. 

We would like to share such a case study with you to demonstrate the importance of our continued surveillance efforts, and more importantly, how the failure to follow the golden rules can have very serious consequences.  

Our teams are currently responding to a cluster of infections in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, affecting predominantly younger residents. 

Given that these cases were predominantly seen to by private sector facilities, the Western Cape Department of Health was alerted by GPs in the area that a pattern had emerged around residents of a similar age. 

Our contact tracing teams have been able to identify 63 cases linked to a bar/club in the Southern Suburbs. We have been informed that the required regulations and the required safety behaviours were not adhered to in this case. 

There are some other concerning allegations around this event, and we are now requesting a full investigation into this bar/club in question – including by SAPS and the Western Cape Liquor Authority.  

Preliminary data indicates that of the 63 cases detected to date, 37 are learners in matric who attend various schools in the Southern Suburbs, most of them private. Our teams have contacted all of the schools and are ensuring that the necessary protocols are being followed. 

This event is not an indication that our province is experiencing a “second wave”. It is one cluster that demonstrates the potential for spread that continues even while our hospitalisations and deaths stabilize.  

We are nevertheless extremely worried that this particular event is indicative of younger residents not adhering to the important behaviours we need to prevent a new spike of infections. 

It is also indicative of some establishments not following the important health and safety guidelines, as well as the legal regulations which have been put in place, to stop the spread. 

It is critical that we all, regardless of our age, play a role in keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. This requires both individual and business responsibility, by ensuring that we always wear a mask, keep a distance, avoid large gatherings where there is bad ventilation, and wash our hands regularly. All private establishments must adhere to the law. 

We also fully understand that there is enormous fatigue: we have been through so much already, and we have all worked so hard. We are so incredibly grateful for each and every person who continues to play their part in our Covid-19 response.  

But we have to keep on with our Covid-19 containment efforts. The best defense is our behaviour, and we all have a role to play.  

Our teams will continue to work around the clock to detect and respond to clusters wherever they emerge. But we need your help: please do stay safe, so that we can keep moving forward, together.