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Premier Alan Winde on the Coronavirus COVID-19 health platform and vaccination update

29 Dec 2021

“Enjoy your New Year’s Eve responsibly to protect those at risk and to prevent trauma”

2021 has been a difficult year for so many people across our province. Many residents have lost loved ones due to COVID-19, and many more have lost their jobs as restrictions resulted in a second pandemic of unemployment. I am hopeful that 2022 will be a better year, that will bring better health, and more happiness and prosperity for our province. 

The Western Cape Government is committed to doing whatever it can to ensure that this is the case, by focussing on a recovery that delivers the jobs, the safety and the well-being that our province needs to move forward. This will be our number one priority in the year ahead. 

While we are all excited to usher in a new year, we ask that you do so safely and responsibly. The number of trauma cases over the weekend, especially at month end, remains extremely high and this places a great burden on our emergency rooms. 

Every person has a role to play in protecting those of greatest risk of severe disease and to prevent trauma over this time.  How can you help achieve this?

•    Gather outdoors, wherever possible. The fresher the better. 
•    Ensure good ventilation, if you are meeting indoors.
•    Wear a mask when gathering with others.
•    Vaccinate, and get a booster when it is your turn. 
•    Avoid crowded places.
•    Protect those at risk in your families and friendship circles.
•    Stay home if you feel sick. 
•    Drink responsibly. 
•    Do not drink and drive or drink and walk. Please find alternative ways to get home if you have been drinking. Pedestrian deaths account for a high number of road accidents.

Let this New Year’s Eve be a time of joy and celebration and not one of loss and grief. 

“Western Cape Government calls for the curfew to be lifted ahead of New Year’s Eve”

I have requested that President Cyril Ramaphosa lift the curfew ahead of New Year’s Eve. 

If it continues, it will have a major impact on our tourism and hospitality sector with restaurants unable to serve patrons until midnight, losing significant revenue. This sector cannot afford it, especially after the terrible impact that travel bans have had over the last month. 

Our country’s law enforcement should also be singularly focussed on ensuring that we prevent trauma in our communities and enforcing a curfew province wide would divert resources from crime hotspots and therefore prove to be a distraction to this critical objective.

Lastly, our key determining factor for the need for restrictions is the ability of our healthcare system to cope with the COVID-19 burden. As will be set out below, the Western Cape health platform continues to have the capacity to cope, and hospitalisations and deaths are lower than the second and third wave. If we are to get the balance right to save both lives and jobs, removing the curfew is the correct decision to make. 

This however means that greater personal responsibility is required, so that we can ensure a peaceful New Year’s Eve with less trauma.

“We are starting to see the plateauing of new cases in the Western Cape, with the proportion of tests coming back positive starting to decline”

The Western Cape Government is starting to see the plateauing of new cases in the Western Cape, with the proportion of tests coming back positive starting to decline. This points to a slowing down of the fourth wave in the Western Cape, as we approach our peak. 

However, given the numerous public holidays over this period, we need to caution against making a decisive call over what is expected over the next week, and we will closely monitor the cases to determine if this trend continues. 

Overall, the number of new COVID-19 cases remains high at 4000 new cases per day on average, with 217 new admissions on average per day. Those in high care and ICU remain relatively low. The number of new deaths is low at 2 deaths on average a day.  There has been a 48% decline in deaths over the last week. 

In terms of subdistricts, there is a slowing down of case increases in the Cape Metro, with some subdistricts like Western, Khayelitsha and Klipfontein showing a decrease in cases. Our rural districts are still seeing an increase in cases, although the increase has slowed compared to previous weeks. 

Lastly, the Reproductive Number is around 1 for the first time during the fourth wave. This also points to the slowing down of this wave. We however need to again caution against making a decisive call on the peak, given the projected delay in testing caused by the public holidays last week. 

“The gap between cases, admissions and deaths continues to widen during the fourth wave”

While the case numbers and test positivity rate during the fourth wave have exceeded previous waves, admissions are below the peak of both the second and the third wave and deaths remain extremely low, in line with previous interwave periods. There is therefore a widening gap between these metrics, pointing to less severe disease during the fourth wave. 

Overall, according to our data, the risk of admission is 30% lower in the fourth wave when compared to the third wave, and the risk of admission for severe disease is 60% less during the fourth wave than during the third wave. We believe that vaccination, as well as immunity from undiagnosed prior infection has played an important role in this. 

That is why we continue to call for residents over the age of 50 years old to get vaccinated, and if eligible, to get their booster vaccination as soon as possible. Let’s ensure that we have the best possible protection if we get infected. The risk is too great not to. 

“Western Cape Hospitals continue to have the capacity to provide care to those who need it, when they need it”

The Western Cape Health Platform, which is closely monitored through our Bed Bureau Management System, continues to be able to provide care to those who need it, when they need it. 

•    The Metro hospitals have an average Bed Occupancy Rate of 85%; George drainage area hospitals at 61%; Paarl drainage area hospitals at 59% & Worcester drainage area hospitals at 65%. 
•    Critical care Bed Occupancy Rate for designated COVID-19 beds for the province is at 42%.
•    COVID-19 & PUI cases currently make up 16% of all available acute general hospital capacity in both Metro and Rural Regional Hospital drainage areas.
•    The Brackengate Hospital of Hope currently has 170 patients (50% of total capacity), Sonstraal currently has 0 patients; Freesia & Ward 99 have 0 patients. Mitchells Plain Hospital of Hope has 0 patients.
•    The Metro mass fatality centre remains closed as deaths remain low.

Insofar as our field hospitals are concerned:

•    Brackengate Hospital of Hope is now fully commissioned.
•    At the moment, between the Brackengate Hospital of Hope and our acute service platform we have sufficient capacity to manage the COVID-19 caseload in the Cape Metro. 
•    Sonstraal and Harry Comay intermediate care facilities will be commissioned as required depending upon the COVID-19 load. At the moment there is no need to commission these facilities. 

A key marker for our health platform trigger system remains oxygen usage. Our increase in oxygen consumption remains below 50%, meaning that the Western Cape remains on the lowest level of our “trigger” system. 

“Initial raw data analysed by the Western Cape Department of Health shows vaccines are highly effective in preventing death from COVID-19”

Raw data analysed by the Western Cape Department of Health shows that 82% of new cases and 92% of deaths were amongst residents who were not fully vaccinated. 

This analysis was done in cases of residents 18 years old and older, diagnosed between 15 November and 11 December 2021. 

The team is still undertaking a detailed analysis of this data to incorporate the impact of partial vaccination, which is not included in this initial study. 

What is nevertheless clear is that vaccines provide important protection against severe disease in those who are fully vaccinated, and that getting vaccinated remains a critical way to protect yourself, to stay out of hospital and to prevent death. 

“Two thirds of all residents over the age of 60 years old are now fully vaccinated in the Western Cape”

Our top priority remains to ensure that those who are at greatest risk of severe disease and death get vaccinated. That is why we have focussed our vaccination programme on reaching residents who are 50 years old and older. 

So far,

•    66,7% of residents over the age of 60 years old are fully vaccinated, with 5% partially vaccinated.
•    58% of residents between 50 and 59 years old are fully vaccinated, with 5% partially vaccinated. 

Overall, 

•    62,41% of all residents over the age of 50 years old are fully vaccinated in the Western Cape, with 4,78% partially vaccinated. 
•    39,89% of all residents between 18 and 49 years old are fully vaccinated in the Western Cape, with 7,34% partially vaccinated. 

There has been a slow-down in vaccination take-up over this festive season period. We will nevertheless continue to do whatever we can to reach those who are unvaccinated in low-uptake areas so that we ensure equity and fairness. 

“J&J and Pfizer booster doses now available for adults – get this added protection as soon as possible”

It is now possible to get a booster vaccination in South Africa, and we encourage residents to take up this opportunity when they are eligible. If you are over 50 years old, or if you have comorbidities or are immunocompromised, this is an important additional protection for you so that you stay out of hospital and stay alive.  

The Johnson and Johnson (J&J) Booster vaccination has been available since 24 December:

•    All individuals over 18 years old are eligible if they have received one dose of the J&J vaccine. They can receive this booster after an interval of 2 months (60 days).
•    Immunocompromised residents are eligible for a booster 60 days after receiving an additional dose. 
•    More than 431 000 individuals will become immediately eligible to receive the booster J&J vaccination dose (if they received their J&J vaccine on or before 24 October 2021). 

The Pfizer booster vaccination has been available since 28 December 2021:

•    Individuals older than 18 years who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are eligible to receive a booster dose of the vaccine after an interval of 6 months (180 days) after the second dose. 
•    Immunocompromised residents are eligible for a booster dose 60 days after receiving an additional dose. 
•    3724 individuals will become immediately eligible to receive the booster dose (those who received their second Pfizer dose on or before 28 June 2021). 

The Western Cape Government is also ensuring it has the capacity to ensure a successful booster programme: 

•    Vaccinations sites will commence scale-up to full capacity following the festive season.
•    Capacity of offering mobile vaccination sites will be restored once healthcare workers are less impacted by the fourth wave. 
•    We will continue to leverage partnerships with the private sector to conduct outreaches to congregate settings.
•    We will continue to use a targeted approach, commencing first with frail care settings. 
•    We have received support from the Solidarity Fund and appointed clinical operators will be extended to end March 2022 to ensure additional support during initial anticipated surge periods.  

So far, 

•    59 951 healthcare workers have received their booster dose as part of Sisonke 2,
•    3174 additional doses have been given to immunocompromised individuals, and 
•    927 J&J boosters and 170 Pfizer boosters have so far been administered to the general population. We expect these numbers to expand significantly in January as more people become eligible and the festive season ends. 

“Thank you to our frontline heroes for your unwavering commitment to saving lives and jobs this year” 

As the year draws to an end, I want to again thank our heroes on the frontline for all they have done, and continue to do, to keep the Western Cape moving forward.

Our doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, police officers, law enforcement and traffic officers, departmental officials, NGOs, and small business owners and employees, amongst many others in the private sector, deserve the highest praise this year for helping to save lives and jobs in the Western Cape. Thank you.

I would also like to thank members of the media for being an important channel for accurate reporting of information and for joining my weekly digicon week-in and week-out to help get lifesaving information to our people. Thank you too for what you continue to do for our province. 

To the people of the Western Cape, you have our word that we will do everything we can to make 2022 a better year for you. So that you can enjoy the safety and prosperity that you deserve. Please remember to stay safe and to celebrate responsibly this New Year’s Eve.
 

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