Western Cape's rural areas lag metros and could still face Covid-19 peak

The Cape Town International Convention Centre's Hall 4 is part of the temporary Hospital of Hope opened for Covid-19 patients. It has helped relieve pressure on the health system in the province.
The Cape Town International Convention Centre's Hall 4 is part of the temporary Hospital of Hope opened for Covid-19 patients. It has helped relieve pressure on the health system in the province.
Image: Esa Alexander

The Western Cape metropoles are possibly over the worst of the Covid-19 hump, but smaller towns and rural areas might still be facing the full onslaught. 

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, provincial head of health in the department Dr Keith Cloete said the province was looking at a “later, flatter and longer peak” than had originally been modelled.

“Hospitalisations have stabilised in the province over the past 10 days,” he said. This was in both the public and private sector, indicating “early signs of decline”.

Total Covid-19 admissions reached a daily maximum of 1,900 patients, and now currently stand at 1,600 to 1,700 patients.

These statistics suggest that the Western Cape’s urban areas are on a better footing than before, but the department of health remains cautious about declaring that the province is past the peak.

'PODCAST | Crowds are the new contagion​'

Subscribe for free: iono.fm | Player.fm | Pocket Casts 

There had been a daily maximum of 330 people in critical or intensive care, but currently the maximum is around 270 to 280 per day.

Field hospitals have “relieved the pressure”, and the province has not exceeded its capacity as once feared. However, mortality rates are “not growing at the same rate in all parts of the province”, said Cloete.

He said death rates in Khayelitsha, Klipfontein and the metro showed a decline and a “gentle easing” of infections, yet the rural districts were showing an “increase” because “they are slightly behind the metro by a couple of weeks”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa last week said rapid antibody testing would soon be made available and that this would improve “community surveillance” of the spread of Covid-19 infection.

“When serology rapid antibody tests do come round, we will be able to test seroprevalence and that means we can do samples in different communities to assess the exposure to Covid-19,” said Cloete.

He did sound a word of caution, however. “We are still working with the scenario that potentially there could be another increase in the death rates and hospitalisations as that is what the models show. But the projections are not playing themselves out in reality at this stage.

“There seems to be a slowing. We don’t want to proclaim too early that we are past the peak. We want to monitor and track and make sure that if there is an upswing, we are in a position to deal with it. We would rather be conservative and prepared.”

He said the province had been seeing “a flatter trajectory” for over a month now.

He also allayed fears that Covid-19 related deaths were not being picked up by the health system. The department had compared their statistics to those at the department of home affairs and found that “the peak in those records was at the same time in our records”.

“We are confident that the deaths we are tracking show we are not missing numbers.”


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.