Picture: 123RF/JOZEF POLC
Picture: 123RF/JOZEF POLC

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) has flagged a steady increase in Covid-19 cases in the Free State, Northern Cape and the North West over the past three weeks and urged people to step up efforts to prevent transmission as the April school holidays loom.

All three provinces have recorded a sharp rise in the moving seven-day average of new infections, a rise in daily hospital admissions and an uptick in the test positivity rate.

“There is no cause for alarm, but we do need to be monitoring the situation carefully and respond appropriately,” said NICD senior epidemiologist Harry Moultrie.

In the Free State the rolling seven-day average of new cases rose from 118 to 199 between March 29 and April 19, an increase of more than 60%. Over the same period the rolling seven-day average of new cases rose 51% in the North West, from 97 to 147, while in the Northern Cape it more than doubled from 70 to 144.

“Those increases are quite large, but we are not at a point where hospitals are being overwhelmed or are in danger of [it] in the immediate future,” said Moultrie.

Since the number of new infections is fairly small, it is possible to slow the spread of the virus with increased testing and contact tracing, he said.

It is also important for individuals to maintain well-established non-medical interventions, such as mask wearing and social distancing, to reduce transmission, he said.

The test positivity rate stands at 12.4% in the Free State, 14.2% in the Northern Cape and 10.6% in the North West, said the NICD.

Daily hospital admissions for Covid-19 patients have risen in several districts in the three provinces, including the Mangaung metro in the Free State, said Moultrie.

The NICD is closely monitoring the situation and working with provincial officials to try to establish whether cluster outbreaks are driving the increase in infection, he said.

The NICD urged people to be particularly vigilant during the upcoming school holidays. Public schools close on April 23 and reopen on May 3. Many families will be making plans for travel and social gatherings, and complying with non-pharmaceutical interventions is vital, said the NICD.

It advised people to hold social activities outdoors wherever possible or in well-ventilated areas with open windows and doors, because confined spaces with poor ventilation increase the risk of transmission.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za

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