There are early signs that the Cape Town metro is entering its peak of Covid-19 infections and would begin to flatten, Western Cape premier Alan Winde said on Tuesday.

The situation in the Garden Route — one of the first areas in the country to be declared a hotspot — has begun to stabilise, with the number of cases and hospitalisations declining.

Winde also said he was actively seeking to quickly source vaccines even though the central government had decided on a national, single-source acquisition strategy. The province had also nearly finalised its strategy for rolling out vaccinations.

The national government has come under criticism for its delay in acquiring vaccines, which are expected to arrive in SA in February at the earliest or in the second quarter.

At his weekly media briefing to outline the Covid-19 situation in the Western Cape and the provincial government’s response to it, Winde said he was cautiously optimistic and very encouraged that the upward curve of infections in the Cape Town metro was flattening.

Figures for the Western Cape as at 1pm on Monday showed the number of active cases at 41,538, deaths at 7,336 and hospitalisations at 3,290, of which 356 were in intensive care or high care. There were 7,537 total acute operational public sector beds for Covid-19 patients.

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a ban on the sale of alcohol and its on-site and off-site consumption on December 28 under the adjusted level 3 of the lockdown, the number of trauma cases in the metro had dropped significantly, reducing pressure on hospitals.

Head of the provincial health department Keith Cloete cautioned that Covid-19 deaths were still increasing in the province but the rate of increase was declining.

Also, the rate of reproduction of infections across the province — that is, the number of times an infected person infects other people — had also been declining since its peak on about December 10 and was now approaching 1, which indicated that the rate of increase was dropping and that there was a potential for stabilisation of the infection rate.

No spike in infections was expected as holidaymakers returned home, Cloete said.

Provincially, there was a decrease in the number of reported cases, but this had to be seen against the backdrop of a lower number of tests over the holiday period, Cloete said. The rate of daily hospital admissions was also starting to slow.

He said the Cape Town metro was expected to peak on January 7 — this is when the rate of increase in the number of infections begins to slow down — and later in the rest of the province. The Garden Route had passed the peak of the second wave and infections were slowly declining.

The pressure on hospitals remained high, Cloete said.

He noted that between December 28, when the alcohol ban was introduced, and January 3, the average daily number of trauma patients across five hospitals in the metro was 39 compared with the 74 average in the previous week until December 27 — a reduction of 47%.

He said 1,019, or 3% of the total number of 33,062 health-care workers, were infected with Covid-19.

The province had laid on additional beds and additional oxygen supplies. It was now using about 76 tonnes of oxygen a day at its private, public and military hospitals, but additional supplies had been brought in from the Eastern Cape to bring available supply to 95 tonnes.


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