South Africa

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Western Cape officials warn of Covid-19 risk as holidays loom

A nurse displays a syringe containing a Covid-19 vaccine. There are currently 36,835 active cases in the Western Cape, which is also seeing an average of 2,439 new cases each day. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

‘We appeal to you: it’s not over yet,’ warned Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo as the country heads into a period of long weekends, school holidays and religious festivals which could lead to a spike in Covid-19 infections.

There have been small spikes of Covid-19 in towns in the Western Cape, says the province’s health team, which issued a stern warning on Thursday: as the holiday season approaches, don’t forget the basic Covid-19 health protocols. 

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said with the coming long weekends, April school holidays and religious events, people are likely to gather and this could lead to a spread of the virus. “That’s why we appeal to you: it’s not over yet,” she said. The MEC urged people to avoid crowds, clean surfaces, wash hands and wear masks. 

Health Department head Keith Cloete said that in terms of infection, the province is “between waves”. Cases were plateauing and the death rate was still declining in the province. In the latest figures, from Wednesday, 17 March, there were 277,891 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 264,053 recoveries. There had been 11,378 deaths and there were currently 2,460 active cases and 950 Covid patients in hospital. 

Cloete said there have been clusters of outbreaks in the Cape Winelands, including in Witzenberg, Drakenstein and Stellenbosch. The clusters in Stellenbosch had been linked to students returning to university as well as events in the town. In Witzenberg and Drakenstein, outbreaks had been traced to gatherings where physical distancing and masks were absent. Those cluster outbreaks are being managed, said Cloete. 

The province’s surveillance team, which Cloete said had been working for about 12 months, can make links to places and events to pinpoint possible spreads of infections. “Our teams are constantly on top of it,” he said. 

Last week, the province was worried about potential superspreader events such as Eid and Easter, which could lead to another spike in infections. “We really, really need to be vigilant,” said Cloete, who urged smaller, spacious outdoor events or going virtual in the holiday season. About a potential third wave of infections, he said “we want to delay it as much as possible”. 

The province had also vaccinated 29,520 healthcare workers since inoculations started exactly one month ago. 

In closing remarks, Mbombo said “everytime we gather there is a risk” that people could get infected and spread Covid-19 further. DM

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