Western Cape Covid-19 infections out of control, warns economist

President Cyril Ramaphosa in Elsies River, one of the communities in Cape Town's badly hit Tygerberg health sub-district.
President Cyril Ramaphosa in Elsies River, one of the communities in Cape Town's badly hit Tygerberg health sub-district.
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

The biggest numerical leap so far in confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Western Cape has coincided with a report saying the disease is "essentially out of control" in the province.

Cases increased by 535 (13%) to 4,584 on Friday, meaning the Western Cape now has 56% of all detected infections nationally, even though it has only 15% of the population.

The City of Cape Town alone is responsible for 49% of SA's confirmed cases after increasing its tally by 468 in a day.

A policy brief by the research organisation Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (Tips), which looked at cases up to Tuesday, said "significant change" was needed in the handling of the outbreak in Cape Town.

On Thursday, health minister Zweli Mkhize said he and President Cyril Ramaphosa would visit the Western Cape next week to deal with a "cluster outbreak".

"We need to find a mechanism to go into those areas and deal with the outbreak more strongly. We will work with [local authorities] and see what additional reinforcements are needed,” he said.

Reported cases by province from March 30 to May 5.
Reported cases by province from March 30 to May 5.
Image: Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies

Economist Neva Makgetla, who wrote the Tips brief, said one option would be to move Cape Town back to level 5 of lockdown.

"Alternatively, stronger measures are needed to identify and isolate cases and to improve on physical distancing and sanitation with the level 4 framework.

"Whatever approach is adopted, a central problem remains securing community support and making it easier for people to maintain physical distance and quarantine."

A seven day rolling average of new cases by province between March 30 and May 5.
A seven day rolling average of new cases by province between March 30 and May 5.
Image: Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies

Makgetla said the rapid spread in infections "appears to largely centre on informal settlements in Cape Town, which are unusually densely populated".

On Friday, according to the province's Covid-19 dashboard, 68 new cases in Khayelitsha had taken the township's per capita infection rate to 146 per 100,000. The number of infections has grown by 94% in a week and 298% in a fortnight.

Average daily growth rate in Covid-19 cases.
Average daily growth rate in Covid-19 cases.
Image: Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies

Both numbers were eclipsed by the Tygerberg health sub-district, which recorded 145 new infections, a daily increase of 22.6%.

Tygerberg, which includes Bellville and densely populated suburbs such as Langa, Delft, Belhar, Elsies River and Bonteheuwel, has seen a 521% increase in infections in a fortnight and is responsible for 11% of confirmed cases nationally.

Reported weekly cases per 100,000 by province.
Reported weekly cases per 100,000 by province.
Image: Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies

"Other provinces have seen surges in new cases, but so far nothing of the order of magnitude or the duration experienced in the Western Cape," said Makgetla.


Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.