Alan Winde. Picture: HETTY ZANTMAN
Alan Winde. Picture: HETTY ZANTMAN

The Western Cape has seen a sharp rise in its Covid-19 infection rate, especially in Cape Town, because of its intense programme of screening and testing, which, ironically, could result in the city facing a slower easing of the lockdown restrictions than other areas.

The Western Cape overtook Gauteng as the epicentre of the country’s coronavirus crisis on Thursday having recorded 1,279 of the national total of 3,953 confirmed cases. Gauteng had 1,252 confirmed cases and KwaZulu-Natal 807. More than 80% of the confirmed cases in the Western Cape are in the Cape Town metro. The province has also had about a third of the national total of 75 deaths.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said on Friday that he understonds that people in the province are worried about the rapid rise in new laboratory-confirmed cases but noted that “this is a natural result of our more rigorous testing approach”.

Over the past week, nearly 9,000 tests have been conducted in the province to identify who is positive and, since the beginning of April, more than 150,000 people had been screened.

“The new, phased lockdown approach is based on infection data, and we will only be able to move down in levels, towards the new normal, when and where infection data is showing stabilisation in the number of new infections,” Winde said.

“That is why it is crucial that across SA we implement a rigorous screening and testing regime. In the Western Cape, we have done so. We therefore expect the number of laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases to climb in the province.”

Wine said the deployment of the province’s screening and testing teams is based on data which actively identifies and follows the “bush fires” — the pockets of infections within communities. Contact-tracing teams then track the previous movements and contacts of those infected.

In his address to the nation on Thursday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a new, risk-aligned strategy to the lockdown, which will result the country moving to slightly more relaxed level four restrictions on May 1.

There will be five levels with the fifth — which is the current stage — being a hard lockdown and level one being the most relaxed. The strategy will also involve the implementation of different levels of restriction for each province, district and metro depending on the level of their infections.

“From the evidence we have we know that 75% of confirmed coronavirus cases are found in six metro municipalities: Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town, Buffalo City, Ethekwini and Manguang,” the president said.

Winde welcomed the risk-aligned strategy, which he said balances “the need to remain cautious to prevent new infections, with the need to re-open the economy so that people can start to return to work”.

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