By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), reports 8,929 new COVID-19 cases that have been identified in South Africa, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 2,311,232. This increase represents a 22.2% positivity rate.
The majority of new cases today are from Gauteng (37%), followed by the Western Cape (19%). KwaZulu-Natal accounted for 11%; the North West accounted for 8%; the Eastern Cape accounted for 7%; Mpumalanga and Limpopo each accounted for 6%; the Free State accounted for 4%; and the Northern Cape accounted for 2% of today’s new cases.
"Testing rates have decreased in the past 2 weeks, and while this may be reflective of a decreased need for testing due to decreased infections, access to testing has been limited in certain areas due to the social unrest," comments Dr Michelle Groome, Centre Head for the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response at the NICD. "Thus, trends in the coming week will be important in confirming whether the peak of third wave has indeed been reached or not," Groome adds.
NICD said a further 596 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 67, 676 to date.
For updates on the national vaccine programme, click here.
Meanwhile South Africa’s statutory health regulatory bodies, together with the National Health Department, have denounced the ongoing looting and violence, especially acts targeting healthcare facilities and the medicines supply chain.
"We appeal to citizens looting and destroying the healthcare infrastructure and disrupting the provision of health care to consider the long-term consequences of their actions on the health of communities.
"In a time of a pandemic of huge proportions, such acts of violence, looting and the disruption of service will simply fuel the fire," a joint statement issued said.
The regulatory bodies are concerned about the acts of violence that are taking place at a time when medicines, including vaccines and access to healthcare services, are a necessity.
"Without health care services, the requisite medicines and vaccines, we will have unnecessary deaths and cause further pandemonium, including severe damage to the economy."
In the statement – issued by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, Health Professions Council of South Africa, Office of Health Standards Compliance, South African Nursing Council and South African Pharmacy Council – the authorities said they are working closely with the National Health Department to restore the provision of healthcare and essential medicines, including chronic medicines and vaccines.
"We appeal to community, religious and political leaders to spread the word that these acts of criminality are not only harming the economy but are senseless and counterproductive.
"Targeting pharmacies, doctors’ practices, clinics and other healthcare institutions in the midst of a pandemic is detrimental, especially to the old, frail and vulnerable people."
These bodies said the impact of the destruction on public health is already being felt in societies, with members of the community deprived of healthcare and chronic patients unable to access medicines.
COVID-19 vaccine sites and vaccines themselves are lost to destruction and looting.
"We further fear that the availability of controlled substances and medicines, which have been looted or stolen in the affected communities, may endanger the health of community members, who may consume these without the supervision and guidance of healthcare professionals."
The statutory health regulatory bodies called on people to not use any medicines that are not accessed through authorised healthcare institutions.
Such illegal activity may be reported to SAHPRA via firstname.lastname@example.org or to law enforcement agencies.
"We wish to reiterate that the health and prosperity of our nation, as well as the defeat of the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality, can never be achieved through the destruction of livelihoods, the economy and the much-needed infrastructure.
"Therefore, let us preserve what is left of the gains in health and economic growth and immediately adopt non-violent means to conflict resolution."