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NC tops spike in Covid

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There has been a 68% increase in Covid-19 cases in the Northern Cape in the last seven days – health minister.

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THE NORTHERN Cape tops the list of new Covid-19 cases recorded in the country over the past seven days, raising concern within the Province.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize earlier this week stated that the Province has recorded the highest percentage increase at 68%.

An additional 299 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the Province on Wednesday. An additional four Covid-19-related deaths were recorded, bringing the cumulative total to 958.

Mkhize indicated that there has been an overall 46% increase in cases countrywide in the last two weeks.

“The 14-day comparison also shows that new cases increased from 17,017 in the preceding 14 days to 21,124 cases in the last 14 days . . . an overall 24% increase.

“The Northern Cape is followed by Gauteng at 63%, Limpopo at 47%, North West at 42% and Western Cape at 39%,” Mkhize said.

He added that the number of Covid-related deaths in the country has increased by 18.22% in the past week.

The rising number of cases has sparked concern in the Province and has been partly blamed on poor sanitation and the allocation of clean water, especially in the Sol Plaatje municipal area.

The DA said that it will request an urgent legislature briefing from the Provincial Command Council.

The DA spokesperson for health in the Province, Isak Fritz, questioned the capabilities of the health sector to handle the rise in cases.

He highlighted concerns about reports that Covid-19 wards, intensive care units and high care facilities in the city are full.

Fritz also pointed out reports regarding varying availability of limited ventilators, and even cases whereby patients are being sent to Bloemfontein or Gauteng to receive medical help.

A message has been circulating on social media for over a week, where residents were warned of overcrowding at the three hospitals in Kimberley.

According to the message, the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital (RMSH) has exceeded 100% capacity with Covid-19 patients, while two private hospitals were at 100% capacity.

The Northern Cape Department of Health denied the claims and indicated that none of the three hospitals in Kimberley has reached or exceeded 100% capacity in Covid-19 patients.

The spokesperson for the department, Lebogang Majaha, said only non-urgent hospital admissions and hospital specialist visits will increasingly have to be postponed as the third wave progresses in order to treat Covid-19 patients at RMSH.

“We wish to clarify that currently the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital and other health facilities in the Province, including the private sector, have not reached full capacity,” said Majaha.

Gariep Mediclinic spokesperson Denise Coetzee admitted that the hospital had experienced a rise in Covid-19 patients over the past two weeks.

Coetzee, however, indicated that there are times when the number stabilises due to the increasing recovery rate.

She gave assurance that they have enough ventilators and oxygen in place to deal with the situation.

The second private hospital failed to comment.

The DA has meanwhile also demanded an indication of how prepared the Province is for fighting the next wave of Covid infections.

“We also need to know where the Province stands in respect of its tracking and tracing programme, particularly against the potential threat posed by the B.1.617 and B.1.1.7 variants.”

On Thursday, Cabinet reconfirmed the commencement of Phase 2 of the vaccination roll-out programme on Monday, May 17.

This phase will commence with the vaccination of persons 60 years of age and older and the national and provincial departments of Health will communicate the information about the location of more than 3,000 vaccination centres.

“The commencement of Phase 2 will run simultaneously with the continuing vaccination of health care workers whose vaccination was affected by the regulatory issues that beset the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the USA and Europe,” Cabinet said in a statement.

The Sisonke vaccination plan, which was expanded to 95 sites across the country, has, to date, vaccinated 434,980 health care workers (HCWs) and will end tomorrow.

Cabinet stated that it was pleased that the remainder of the HCWs will be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine until further notice.

HOW TO REGISTER

People who are 60 years and older can register on the Covid-19 Electronic Vaccination Data System https://vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za. Those without online access or a smartphone can register through SMS by dialling *134*832*your ID number#. If you do not have an ID number, dial *134*832#.

Registration can also be done through the Covid-19 WhatsApp number by sending “REGISTER” to 0600 123 456.

Citizens must ensure they enter their correct cellphone number and residential address to be able to receive information on the vaccination programme, when necessary.

Those with no access to technology can also register at their nearest vaccination site or with the community health workers who will visit various communities.

The registration is essential for people to participate in the vaccination programme and allow traceability for purposes of medical follow-up should such be required in the future.

You do not need data or airtime to access the zero-rated SMS and WhatsApp registration services. Those who encounter challenges whilst registering can call the Covid-19 hotline: 0800 029 999.

HELP FOR INDIA

Cabinet was this week briefed on the prevailing situation relating to Covid-19 infections in India and supported the decision to donate ventilators to India as part of South Africa’s commitment that the fight against Covid-19 across the globe requires collective effort.

Cabinet said it was also aware of the concerns amongst South Africans about the Covid-19 situation in India and wished to assure citizens that the Department of Health and its scientists continue to monitor developments in that country and that necessary and appropriate precautions and protocols are implemented to protect South Africans.

Cabinet was also briefed about the slight increase in Covid-19 infections in the country and the application of necessary response measures to curb the spread.