Western Cape Government’s preparations for a third wave of COVID-19 infections

“The Western Cape Government has prepared enough beds, oxygen & staff ahead of a third wave”

During my weekly digital press conference last week, the Western Cape Government announced that on our current trajectory we may be face a third wave in two to three weeks’ time. This depends on several factors, most importantly, the behavior of our residents in preventing the spread of the virus. 

The Western Cape is currently facing a resurgence as it has seen increases in its case numbers every day, over the past 12 days. While this is not yet a third wave, it is the first sign that we are moving towards one. 

To ensure that we are fully prepared for this surge in cases, we have adopted a five-point plan. The plan includes:

  1. Changing community behaviours to prevent infection;
  2. Surveillance and outbreak response;
  3. Scaling-up health platform COVID-19 capacity, when needed;
  4. Maintaining comprehensive services; and
  5. Safeguarding and protecting the wellbeing of health care workers.

Our guiding principal remains that no person will be denied access to life-saving medical treatment. We must make sure we have enough beds, staff and oxygen to respond effectively in the month ahead.

“Afrox Western Cape commits to scale up oxygen capacity for third wave”

I am pleased that the Afrox Western Cape plant has undertaken to scale up its provisions to respond to an increase in demand.  

This will be supported by the public and private sectors joint commitment to addressing the capacity challenges which were identified during the second wave, to ensure that we can respond when a surge takes place.  

The Provincial Department of Health will also continue to monitor how much oxygen is used over the upcoming weeks. 

In the Western Cape, the combined public-private utilisation is currently at 31.84 tons per day or 45.49% of the production capacity. In total, 70 tons are available per day from the Afrox Western Cape plant, which we believe is sufficient to respond at a third wave peak.

“The Western Cape government has sufficient bed capacity to respond to the resurgence and will create capacity where needed”

In planning for a potential third wave, we need to ensure that we have sufficient bed capacity for those in need of intermediate care, high care or ICU. 

I can confirm that the Western Cape has sufficient bed capacity to respond to the resurgence in COVID-19 cases and through previous investments during this pandemic can bring online additional bed capacity where and when needed. 

Throughout the first and second wave, we have ensured that our internal infrastructure can respond accordingly. This strategy of enhancing infrastructure at existing facilities means that the facilities remain on standby to come online when necessary.   

We can confirm that:

  • The Brackengate Hospital of Hope and Sonstraal Hospital of Hope are still operational.
  • The intermediate care capacity created at Lentegeur Hospital and the Mitchell’s Plain Hospital of Hope will be brought back online when necessary, and at short notice.
  • While always a last resort, we remain ready to de-escalate services and create additional acute care capacity at short notice.

We also continue to closely monitor the usage of beds across our province, through a centrally coordinated and professional operation, known as the Bed Bureau Management System. 

In the Western Cape, the total general bed use rate is at 83% and our COVID-19 bed use rate is at 12%. Insofar as our drainage areas are concerned:  

  • The Metro has 5041 beds, of which the general bed use rate is 90% and the COVID-19 bed use rate is 11%.
  • The George drainage area has 918 beds, of which the general bed use rate is 65% and the COVID-19 bed use rate is 12%.
  • The Paarl drainage area has 940 beds, of which the general bed use rate is 74% and the COVID-19 bed use rate is 20%.
  • The Worcester drainage area has 769 beds, of which the general bed use rate is 72% and the COVID-19 bed use rate is 15%.

“We are ensuring that we have enough health care workers ahead of a third wave”

As we have learnt from the first and second wave, healthcare workers play a critical role in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They serve as our frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19, which is why we are taking every step to ensure that our healthcare system is protected and sufficiently staffed. 

We are doing this by extending contracts for the most critical posts. This will support us in retaining COVID-19 staffing capacity.  We have also established a recruitment database for additional COVID-19 nurses and medical staff, that will allow us to bring online additional healthcare worker capacity. 

A key feature in our appointments is that they are made within a geographical area rather than for a designated site. This will provide us with the necessary agility to capacitate our health care system and staff can be rotated. 

Another major benefit is that a large proportion of our healthcare workers have already been vaccinated. This means we should be able to operate at a greater capacity in the months ahead. 

“It’s up to you to flatten the curve”

I want to reassure residents that the Western Cape Government is taking every measure to prevent the onset of a third wave. But we need your help to ensure that we keep pushing it out and keep it flat. 

Every day we gain, will mean more people vaccinated in the Western Cape. This will undoubtedly save lives. 

We have all come so far already, and we are one step closer to the end of this pandemic. So, don’t get COVID-19 now, and don’t give it to someone who could potentially end up in hospital or die from the virus. 

We must not give up now. We must dig deep, stay safe and stay strong in the weeks ahead. 

You can play your part by washing and sanitizing your hands regularly, wearing your mask correctly and maintaining a safe social distance. Additionally, when gathering with friends and family it is essential that you keep it short, outside and small. 

You can also play your part by ensuring that you are registered for your vaccine, should you be eligible, or by helping to register those who are eligible. Together we can make a difference. Let’s stay safe, and let’s stay strong. 

#LetsDoThis Western Cape.