“We welcome the end of the curfew, but President Ramaphosa needs to go a step further and end the National State of Disaster”
I welcome the announcement by the National Government yesterday evening that the curfew will be terminated ahead of New Year’s Eve.
I had argued that this move was critical if we are to get the balance right in saving both lives and jobs, by allowing the tourism and hospitality sector to operate fully from today.
It will also prevent a diversion of policing resources province-wide from crime hotpots in order to try and enforce this measure which is not necessary.
However, it is the position of the Western Cape Government that the President needs to go a step further by ending the National State of Disaster entirely.
Throughout this pandemic, we have based our position on data, and it is clear from our fourth wave health platform data that we have the capacity to manage the COVID-19 pandemic without this very extreme measure.
While the Western Cape’s 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 (on average 2 a day) 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. Our data is also showing that vaccines are highly effective in preventing death.
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.
Despite being near our peak:
• 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.
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.
That is why the Western Cape Government has tabled a five-point plan, that would normalise the COVID-19 response in South Africa. The reality is that we have to learn to live with the virus, without imposing measures that will exacerbate the second pandemic of unemployment and hunger, which also costs lives.
1. We must end the National State of Disaster to grow the economy and create jobs.
2. We must enable Provincial and Local Government responses through an established traffic-light warning system, based on pre-determined measures of the health platform capacity. This will enable provincial, differentiated approaches in the future based on a provincial government’s capacity to respond to increased pressures.
3. We must maintain healthcare capacity by increasing budget allocations to Provincial Governments. This will enable maintenance of standby field hospital capacity, healthcare worker capacity and oxygen capacity should it be required in the future.
4. We must empower people by continuing with behaviour change campaigns that provide knowledge on non-pharmaceutical safety practices. Residents must be given the agency to protect themselves and others.
5. We must increase vaccinations through more pop-up and satellite vaccination sites, which work better by improving convenience and access.
While the removal of the curfew is very welcomed news, it means an even greater responsibility on residents to ensure that we protect those at risk, and to prevent trauma this weekend.
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.
It is therefore important that we celebrate safely and responsibly. How can you help over New Year’s Eve?
• 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.
2021 has been a difficult year, and we are all excited to usher in a new year. I share this excitement. But let this be a time of celebration and not of grief, by being safe and responsible.