Two regions in the Eastern Cape are fast becoming the nation’s new Covid-19 hotspots.
Areas within the Nelson Mandela Bay metro and Sarah Baartman district have been hit hard by a second wave of Covid-19 infections, putting severe strain on already dwindling medical resources.
SABC News reported on Saturday that beds in the Nelson Mandela Bay area is fast running out of beds to treat patients with Covid-19.
The municipality has embarked on a project to provide more beds for Covid-19 patients, boosting their capacity by just over 70 beds, thanks to the 2010 Soccer World Cup hospital bed back-up project.
On Friday, the Eastern Cape had 114,830 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 4,267 deaths.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize visited the Livingstone Hospital on Tuesday, along with MEC Sindisiwe Gomba and Sarah Baartman mayor, Khunjuzwa Eunice Kekana.
He was expected to visit the Nelson Mandela Bay testing site, the Dora Ngiza Hospital and the VW field hospital as well.
Mkhize is expected to meet with Eastern Cape health officials urgently, to discuss an action plan for the province.
He warned that if cluster outbreaks are not managed aggressively, “that is the beginning of the pandemic getting out of control.”
“It is still very possible that we can suppress this wave and therefore delay the resurgence.”
Hotspots in Nelson Mandela Bay have been identified as Motherwell, Uitenhage, KwaNobuhle and ZwaZakhele.
But as the country approaches the festive season, Covid-19 cases are expected to increase even more.
Warnings have been issued from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to exercise extreme caution, especially in high-risk areas such as the Eastern Cape.
Just six months ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa gave the region’s response to the pandemic the “thumbs up”, singling them out as having “awoken to the danger of this and are now putting in place a clear health strategy that is going to address this.”
In May, the Eastern Cape accounted for 13.3% of the country’s infections.
For the past few weeks, a surge of positive Covid-19 cases has been observed, contributing to a 50% spike in week-to-week numbers, Mkhize said.
Acting mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, Thsonono Buyeye, said on Wednesday that private and public hospitals have indicated the city is “in a serious situation”.
“Our hospitals are full; ICU beds are a struggle to get. All of a sudden, within a short space of time, the field hospital is like gold to us.”
Buyeye said resistance by the public to comply with Covid-19 protocols, as well Covid-19 fatigue is contributing to the surge in cases.
Mkhize said medical staff exhaustion is also a major concern, not only the workload, but the emotional and mental wellbeing as well.
But younger people returning to school and university is also contributing to the surge, with reports indicating that people between 6 and 35 are now contributing to case increases.
“We are a hotspot province, we are the hotspot in the country and that is very troubling [for] us. The rate at which the numbers are increasing is alarming. Every citizen needs to be aware of the danger we are in.
“The reports we are getting are beginning to scare us.”
Buyeye said the City has requested a stricter curfew, to start at 10pm until 4am, instead of the current 12am curfew.
He lamented that a harder lockdown would not be ideal, but may be necessary to save lives.
On Wednesday, “there was no ward in the City that did not have a Covid-19 active case.”
As of Friday night, South Africa has recorded 762,763 positive Covid-19 cases, 707,040 recoveries, and 3,105 new cases. 20,759 people have died, and more than five million tests have been conducted.
The recovery rate currently stands at 92.7%.
Compiled by Nica Richards