South Africa News

Our health-care workers need us to do better this Christmas, says Alan Winde

The second wave of the coronavirus will be significantly larger than the first with its peak already 61% higher than the first, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde warned on Tuesday.

“There are now clear indications that the second wave has been exacerbated by a new variant of Covid-19, called 501.V2, which has shown to be far more infectious than the initial strain which marked the first wave,” Winde said in a media briefing.

The fact that our second wave is taking place over the festive season – normally the most social time of year – further causes for deep concern, Winde said.

“This confluence of factors means it is now more important than ever that residents of the Western Cape step up to the plate to help us contain the spread of the virus. We need to do this to protect our hospital capacity because if we continue as is, there is no guarantee of a hospital bed in either the public or private sector, for you or a loved one, if you require it.

“And we need to do it for our health-care workers, because they are extremely tired, extremely strained, and need our help to get through the next few weeks,” the premier said.

Winde announced the following worrying statistics:

* Total active infections in the Western Cape stand at 34 694, 61% higher than the first peak. The highest single day increase in cases at the first peak was 2 158 (June 29), but the most recent high has been 4 508, 108% higher.

* Currently, 2 691 patients are in hospital, and 316 patients in ICU – the highest number since Covid-19 hit.

* The capacity rate for metro hospitals stands at 105%, while in rural areas it stands at up to 93%.

* The Western Cape is using 32.4 tonnes of oxygen a day, 5 tonnes more than used a day during the peak of the first wave.

* There are 761 health-care workers actively infected with Covid-19. In the past two weeks alone, five health-care workers have died as a result of the virus.

* In the Garden Route, the rate of infection and hospitalizations is finally decreasing, after the district experienced a peak which was double the height of its first peak.

* A similar pattern is emerging in the metro, which is moving rapidly now towards its second peak. If this pattern of the second peak in the metro being double the first is borne out, we can expect to see upward of 90 residents a day dying due to the virus in this one district alone.

Winde urged residents to limit their exposure to other people, “even though we know this is extremely hard over what is normally our most social time of year”.

“This festive season, and especially on key days like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we are now calling on residents to please confine their celebration, as far as possible, to their own household, which we call a family bubble. At celebrations, seek to keep these very small, such as having no more than five visitors, and 10 people in attendance in total (unless your own household is bigger than this), and host all events outside.

“We also call on residents to please sit outdoors at restaurants, or to dine out. Sitting inside an enclosed restaurant for the duration of a meal is high risk. In this respect, municipalities should urgently seek to enable restaurants to move their tables outdoors on to pavements, and perhaps even closed-off streets.

“We ask residents to avoid all non-essential gatherings, particularly those which are indoors. This includes gatherings at faith-based institutions, weddings, funerals, social events, and political events, conferences, concerts, and live performances, cinemas, theatres, bars, taverns, and shebeens…

“Should you wish to drink, do not drink so much that you harm yourself or another person, and do not drink and drive. Trauma cases in our hospitals are taking up beds and diverting the attention of our health-care workers, ” Winde said.

He said that the provincial government had called for urgent meetings with faith-based organizations as well as retail, to discuss how they can strengthen safety protocols and reduce the spread in their enclosed environments.

Keep it small and keep it outdoors, said Winde, who encouraged residents to rather visit a well-managed beach or park – within their family bubble.

“Being outdoors, getting exercise and fresh air, as well as having a joyful time, is very important for residents across our province who’ve had an extremely difficult year. Beaches and parks are also one of the very few free entertainment spaces which can be enjoyed by residents from all our communities, and to deprive our residents of this will only serve to confine them indoors in often cramped spaces, where the spread of the virus is more likely. These are some of the arguments I made in a court case on the closure of the Garden Route’s beaches, in which I was cited as a respondent.”

The Western Cape High Court on Tuesday ruled in favour of the closure of the Garden Route’s beaches.

The court, however, decided to amend the beach operation times from 9 am to 6 pm, to 6 am to 7 pm.


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