South Africa


Warnings issued and sports fields closed as Garden Route sees surge in Covid-19 cases

Beacon Island in Plettenberg Bay along the Garden Route in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. (Photo: EPA/NIC BOTHMA)

Sections of the Garden Route are going through a second wave of Covid-19. This was confirmed by Dr Keith Cloete, head of the Western Cape health department. Now, as the festive season approaches, the provincial government is stepping up efforts to curb the spread of the virus. 

“It’s safe to say that in the Garden Route, there is a second wave,” said head of the Western Cape’s health department, Dr Keith Cloete. Addressing a virtual media briefing on Thursday, he said the spike in cases along the Garden Route fits the description of second waves in other countries. 

Much of the briefing by Western Cape premier Alan Winde and his team of health experts, including Cloete, focused on the increase in Covid-19 cases in the Garden Route areas of George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. These areas were declared hotspots earlier in the week. 

On Thursday, Winde urged residents to be responsible during the festive season, especially at social events such as staff parties and at holiday destinations. 

“Quite frankly, it is concerning,” said Winde, who hails from the Knysna area. 

He said cases – as well as deaths and hospitalisations – were increasing in the province.

There are currently 752 Covid-19 hospitalisations in the Western Cape, with 185 of those on the Garden Route. 

Winde urged people to downscale events during the holiday season. He said there was a “need to take lessons from other parts of the world”.  

Dr Terence Marshall, head of the Garden Route health cluster, said hospital admissions had “consistently increased in the last two weeks”.

Marshall gave the following updates: On 17 November, there were new Covid-19 cases reported in the following Garden Route areas: 

  • Hessequa – 11
  • Mossel Bay – 29
  • George – 68
  • Knysna/Bitou – 109
  • Kannaland – 2
  • Oudtshoorn – 3

During October and November, a spike in cases occurred in George, Knysna, Thembalethu (George), Plettenberg Bay and Pacaltsdorp (George), said Marshall. 

Cases were also starting to increase in the Mossel Bay area. Some areas were spiking because of social gatherings like parties and sports events. 

Winde said economic activity needed to continue in this popular tourist area during the festive season, but that “it needs to be safe”. 

Cloete said talks would be held with organisers of large gatherings such as Matric Rage in Plettenberg Bay. Health officials would be required to sign off on such events.

This is not the first time the area has seen a spike in coronavirus cases. At the beginning of November, Winde called for extra vigilance after new infections were reported after the school holidays. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Western Cape premier Alan Winde calls for caution as Covid-19 cases spike in Garden Route area

Meanwhile, Bitou municipality issued a statement on Thursday morning, declaring all sports fields in the municipality off limits. 

Municipal manager Lonwabo Ngoqo said this was due to the “increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections in Bitou and the Garden Route”. 

The closure affects all sporting, religious and social events being held at the seven sports facilities in the municipality. DM



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