South African Government

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Premier Alan Winde on Western Cape’s healthcare platform and vaccine programme

6 Jan 2022

“The Western Cape has passed its peak. Deaths, even at the peak, remained low. Hospital capacity is good. We must now allow the National State of Disaster to expire and focus on creating jobs.” 

I am pleased to announce that the Western Cape has now passed the peak of its fourth wave, and we expect a consistent decline in cases in the weeks ahead. While the number of cases and test positivity rate exceeded the second and third wave peak respectively, hospitalisations were lower, and deaths remained notably low.

Throughout this time, our health platform maintained sufficient capacity to respond. We did not need to open all our field hospital wards, and we maintained our COVID-19 critical care capacity throughout this period, including at our peak.

Our oxygen usage increases, which is the most robust measure for COVID-19 hospital capacity, did not exceed 50%, which meant that even at our peak we remained on our own lowest trigger level.

This is now unquestionable data that we have the ability and capacity to manage COVID-19 without a disaster declaration, and that the time has come to normalize our response.

We do not need the National State of Disaster, which is an extreme tool imposed with the primary intention of protecting our health platform. It must be allowed to expire by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The National Government has had more than enough time to put in place alternative management systems outside of a disaster declaration, and I already called in October last year for a roadmap to be made public that would enable the termination of the disaster now. The public and the economy should not be expected to wait any longer.

In normalizing the response, we must refocus our attention on our country’s second pandemic which also cost lives – our jobs crisis. A job is a ticket out of poverty. It is the best way to fight crime. It prevents hunger and ensures children can grow healthily, getting onto a ladder of opportunity. We need to fight this pandemic with the same energy and passion, and the Western Cape Government intends to do so.

“We have now passed the peak of the fourth wave, with absolute deaths remaining low”

The Western Cape has already passed the peak of the fourth wave, and we will have exited the fourth wave entirely once we have approximately 600 new cases per day based on the 7-day moving average of cases.

Our healthcare platform shows us that across the province:

  • The reproduction or “R” number remains below one, which points to us having exited the peak of the fourth wave.
  • We are starting to see decreases in the number of daily new cases with an average of 2022 new diagnoses per day.
  • The proportion of positive COVID-19 tests has decreased to an average of 52%.
  • Admissions have plateaued with 225 admissions per day.
  • Oxygen usage did not increase above 50% during the fourth wave (over 400% in the third wave), which is a key measure for COVID-19 hospitalisation.
  • Deaths have been increasing since the middle of December with large percentage increases but from a very low base. Currently, there is an average of 29 deaths per day or a 47% increase in the last week (there were 123 deaths a day based on a 7 day moving average on 5 August 202, the third wave peak).

It is, however, important to note that our data scientists have received a large import of data on deaths from the National Department of Home Affairs which had been backlogged, totalling 150 deaths. This has increased our daily death average; however, when allocating these deaths by day, over time, the absolute death numbers throughout the fourth wave have remained low.

“Our analysis of the fourth wave shows that the risk of hospitalisation and death is lower compared to previous waves.”

The Provincial Department of Health’s analysis of the fourth wave shows us that there is a widening in the gap between cases, admissions, and deaths if we compare the third wave and fourth wave.

This means that while case numbers and test positivity in this wave have exceeded previous waves, hospital admissions are lower than the previous wave at 64% of the third wave admissions peak. Further, while deaths have increased in the last 2 weeks, they stand at just 24% of the third wave peak.

This is very positive and can be attributed to increased protection from the vaccine, immunity from prior infection, as well as emerging evidence that omicron may be less severe.

“We are discharging patients faster than we are admitting them – showing that hospitalisations are on the decline.”

We are seeing a sustained week-on-week decrease in the number of hospital admissions as we exit the peak of the fourth wave. In fact, our hospitals are discharging patients from our hospitals faster than we are admitting patients. We further expect hospitalisations to continue declining in the coming weeks.

We are coping because, in anticipation of a Fourth Wave, we established a 6-point resurgence plan. This plan uses hospital capacity as the most important measure, triggering and upscaling in its resource capacity to ensure we are always able to care for those in need.

Insofar as our healthcare platform is concerned:

  • The total daily bulk oxygen for the province is 29.27 tonnes for the fourth wave. If we compare our oxygen use to the third wave peak on 8 August 2021, the public sector was using 49.07 tons per day. This means that we have used significantly less oxygen during the current wave, reducing pressure on our healthcare platform.
  • The Metro hospitals have an average bed occupancy rate of 83%; George drainage area hospitals are at 64%; Paarl drainage area hospitals are at 67% and Worcester drainage area hospitals are at 76%.
  • Critical care bed occupancy rate for designated COVID-19 beds for the province stands at 54%.
  • COVID-19 and persons under investigation cases currently make up 17% of all available acute general hospital capacity in both Metro and Rural Regional Hospital drainage areas.
  • The Brackengate Hospital of Hope currently has 131 patients; Mitchells Plain Hospital of Hope has 37 patients. Sonstraal currently has 15 patients. Freesia and Ward 99 and Harry Comay have no patients.

“We saw fewer deaths among fully vaccinated persons during the fourth wave compared to previous waves”

Preliminary data collated by the Provincial Department of Health shows us that there were fewer deaths among fully vaccinated persons during the fourth wave compared to previous waves.

Between 15 November and 11 December 2021, it was found that: 

  • Of those between 18 – 34 years, 3 persons died of which none were fully vaccinated.
  • Of those between 35 - 49 years, 11 persons died of which only 1 was fully vaccinated.
  • Of those between 50 – 59 years, 8 persons died of which only 1 was fully vaccinated.
  • Of those 60 years and older, 32 persons died of which only 3 were fully vaccinated.

This shows that vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe illness and death. Please do make use of your vaccine opportunity, including your booster shot, should you be eligible. This is especially important if you are at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease.

“We have fully vaccinated 62.73% of the 50+ in the Western Cape”

Our priority in rolling our vaccine programme is to ensure that those at the highest risk of hospitalisation and death are fully vaccinated and protected. I am pleased to note that to date, 62.73% of those who are 50 years and older have already been fully vaccinated in the Western Cape and strongly encourage those who have not already done so to get vaccinated.

By 5 January 2022, the Western Cape vaccine programme had ensured that:

  • 2 320 312 or 46.62% of the total adult population has been fully vaccinated. This is compared to 15 702 030 or 39.45% nationally.
  • 2 645 845 or 53% of the total adult population have received at least one dose.
  • 2 798 558 or 49.86% of the total eligible population have registered for their vaccine.
  • 4 483 167 vaccinations have been administered to date.

Insofar as vaccine rollout for the total population is concerned:

  • Of those 60 years and older, 67.04% of the total population are fully vaccinated; 4.72% are partially vaccinated and 28.24% are unvaccinated.
  • Of those between 50 – 59 years, 58.17% of the total population are vaccinated, 4.71% are partially vaccinated and 37.11% are unvaccinated. 
  • Of those between 35 – 49 years, 49.21% of the total population are vaccinated; 5.93% are partially and 44.86% are unvaccinated.
  • Of those between 18 – 34 years, 33.70% are fully vaccinated; 8.25% are partially vaccinated, and 58.06% are unvaccinated.
  • Of those between 12 – 17 years, 111 121 or 17.19% have been vaccinated to date.

“Let’s continue to stay safe and stop the spread of COVID-19” 

As the festive season comes to an end, let’s continue to stay safe and be responsible. Based on scientific advice, we urge the public to follow key steps in the weeks ahead to protect themselves and their families, including:

  • Vaccinating to prevent severe disease;
  • Wearing a mask, because the virus spreads through the air;
  • Ensuring good ventilation especially when indoors, with lots of fresh air;
  • Meeting with others outdoors;
  • Arriving alive: do not speed, take regular breaks when driving long distances and rest when needed. Do not drink and drive, or drink and walk;
  • Adhering to the Golden Rules of Good Hygiene, including staying home as soon as you feel sick.

I would like to thank every person in our province who continues to go above and beyond to keep themselves and others safe. I know it continues to be a difficult time for you and your family, and I really appreciate your efforts

I would also like to thank our healthcare workers for their hard work over the last month, especially during a time that many would have spent time with family and friends over the festive season. The Western Cape continues to owe you a great debt of gratitude.

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