Friday, 29 January 2021 15:31

Staff Reporter.

Gauteng is starting to see a decline in COVID-19 cases and while this is welcomed, the province is concerned about the high number of hospitalised patients.

"The other numbers are going down but we still have too many people who are in hospitals, so we’re not celebrating as yet," said Gauteng Premier David Makhura on Friday.

According to Makhura, there are over 5 338 patients battling with the respiratory disease in hospital, of which 1 457 are in ICU and require mechanical ventilation.  

Speaking during the Gauteng Provincial Command Council update, Dr Mary Kawonga said the province has been recording a drop in COVID-19 cases from 12 January.

"This is telling us that we’re starting to decline and we think probably the number of cases went up quite a lot during December and early January because of the festive season, increased mobility, interprovincial travel and so on, "she said.

Meanwhile, enforced adjusted level 3 regulations may have also attributed to the dip in the last two weeks, she added.

In the week ending on 9 January, there were 35 000 new cases, while 20 000 additional infections were recorded last week.  

"That’s still a high number of new cases. It's about two-thirds of what they were at the peak. However, the fact that it’s reduced is a welcomed sign."

Also, the positivity rate has dropped from over 30% to about 11%.

"It shows that there was a high risk of community transmission in early January."

The doctor believes that is another indication that the pandemic is on a downward trajectory.  

Also, the number of weekly hospital admissions is mirroring the pattern of new cases.  

"New hospitalisation is an important indicator in addition to new cases. It's also showing us the extent of community transmissions."

While there has been a slight reduction, Kawonga believes that they are still high.

The doctor said the rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases in early January put a strain on the health system.

"As we know, COVID-19 is not a condition where you are admitted and discharged after three days; people stay in hospital for quite a number of days.

"So, that is why we’re still seeing quite a high number of people sitting in hospital," she added. 

Number of deaths:

The province is still monitoring the number of deaths, which are also showing signs of a slight decline. 

Meanwhile, Gauteng saw an upsurge of excess deaths during the second surge.  

"We’re probably seeing more people dying from COVID-19 than they’re actually being recorded. However, the good news we have seen in the last week is that the number of excess deaths has gone down."

Kawonga is still urging everyone to continue to remain vigilant even though the statistics are showing that the resurgence is receding. 

"We’re cautiously optimistic because the second wave is still not over yet. We are still seeing a high number of cases, deaths, and excess deaths, even though we saw an early dip."

Vaccine:

Acting Gauteng Health Head, Lesiba Malotana, said the planning has been done as the province and the country gears up to inoculate  healthcare workers.  

He said the province has over 700 sites that are currently registered with the National Health Department as vaccination sites for phase one.

Meanwhile, Gauteng has secured over 2 000 centres for phases two and three.

"It means all health public facilities, government institutions, municipal offices and recreational halls will be used as a vaccination site."

According to Malotana, the last two phases will be the biggest exercise as police, soldiers, prison warders, teachers, pensioners, people living with underlying conditions and the rest of the population will be getting their chance to get a lifesaving jab.

The province needs to inoculate about 10.2 million people in Gauteng to reach "herd immunity".

Kawonga said the impending vaccine rollout is good news.

"I think the vaccine is our best chance of suppressing the pandemic and getting out of lockdown."

However, she warned that it will be a while before the province reaches herd immunity.

"That’s a reality, even if we receive the vaccine on Monday, that vaccine will be rolled out first to health workers and once they’re all covered, then the rest of at-risk populations, and then the rest of the population."

She said avoiding crowds, close contacts and confined spaces should be everyone’s mantra.

"Until we reach herd immunity, then maybe we can breathe a sigh of relief," she added.