South Africa: SA Records Increase in Covid-19 Infections

First Johnson and Johnson vaccines arrive in South Africa (file photo).

Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has expressed concern over the increase of COVID-19 cases in the country in the past two weeks.

"... We have noticed a worrying trend of increasing numbers of detected cases in a number of districts. The Free State, Gauteng, Northern Cape and North West are of particular concern but every province, with the notable exception of Eastern Cape, has at least one district of concern," the Minister said on Thursday.

On Thursday, South Africa recorded 2 149 new COVID-19 cases.

Mkhize has encouraged citizens to adhere to the non-pharmaceutical interventions in an effort to ensure that the rise in infections do not turn into a third wave.

"We all know what it takes to keep the Coronavirus at bay- the strict wearing of masks, sanitising and avoiding crowded gatherings.

"The government can facilitate and intervene but ultimately, we would rather concentrate on economic recovery rather than imposing more restrictions. Therefore, every citizen must adhere to the non-pharmaceutical interventions if we are to avoid further restrictions," the Minister said.

He said scientists around the world do not blame the devastating wave of COVID-19 on the variant alone, but always observe that the lack of non-pharmaceutical interventions played a major role in the spread of the variant in that country.

"This also goes for the way we approach the threat of variants of concern (VOC's), like the B.1.617 variant circulating in India.

"Even though the B.1.351 (prevalent in our country) has more mutations than the B.1.617 (prevalent in India), we were still able to control the spread of B.1.351 in South Africa and bring the wave down to a plateau.

"Therefore we have no need to panic about the B.1.617 because, as with any variant of the Coronavirus, the treatment is the same and the way we prevent spread is the same."

South Africa's scientists are working hard to examine samples taken from patients that travelled from India.

"One of the sequences of a traveller has been completed and it turned out to be the B.1.351 variant, the one that is circulating here in South Africa. This tells us that one cannot assume that a traveller carries any particular variant and this is why we insist on being guided by the science.

"Having said that, we do share the concerns of our citizens that we could import a variant of concern that can drive another wave. For this reason, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is deliberating on the issue of border control and final determinations will find expression in Cabinet and be communicated to the public accordingly," the Minister said.

The latest COVID-19 stats show the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases identified in South Africa as 1 590 370.

The number of tests conducted to date is 10 805 804. Of these 32 577 tests were conducted since the last report.

"Sixty-three COVID-19 deaths have been reported: Eastern Cape 6, Free State 21, Gauteng 17, KwaZulu-Natal 5, Mpumalanga 3, Northern Cape 5 and Western Cape 6 which brings the total to 54 620 deaths.

"We convey our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank the health care workers who treated the deceased patients," the Minister said.

The cumulative recoveries now stand at 1 511 905, representing a recovery rate of 95%.

Districts under observation

Meanwhile there are several districts that have been flagged by National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). The districts have been placed "under observation," due to an appreciable rise in the 14 day average percent change.

All districts listed below have had an average rise of 20% or more in the past 14 days:

Free State - Mangaung Metro

Free State - Fezile Dabi

Free State - Xhariep

Free State - Lejweleputswa

Gauteng - City of Johannesburg Metro

Gauteng - Sedibeng

Gauteng - Ekurhuleni Metro

Gauteng - City of Tshwane Metro

KwaZulu-Natal - Ethekwini Metro

Limpopo - Capricorn

Limpopo - Mopani

Mpumalanga - Nkangala

Mpumalanga - Gert Sibande

North West - Dr Ruth Segomotsi MompaK

North West - Dr Kenneth Kaunda

North West - Bojanala PlaKnum

Northern Cape - Pixley Ka Seme

Northern Cape - Zf Mgcawu

Northern Cape - Frances Baard

Western Cape - Cape Winelands

Western Cape - Overberg

"Although some of these districts may have relatively low case incidences, the significant rise in percentage changes should be taken as a serious warning," the Minister said.

Mkhize commended the Eastern Cape where "every district has recorded a zero percent average change".

"This does not mean they are not getting new infections but it does mean they have maintained a plateau, which is very encouraging.

"The Eastern cape suffered a devastating second wave and was the first province to adopt a differentiated approach where certain metros and districts implemented tighter regulations than others, where it became necessary.

The Eastern Cape has made great sacrifices to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19 and we must acknowledge this result and encourage the province to keep this up," the Minister said.

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