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The slowdown in the increase in the number of Covid-19  infections in the Western Cape is encouraging, premier Alan Winde said on Wednesday, but the province is still in the fourth wave of the pandemic which it is only expected to exit in one or two weeks’ time.

Infections in all provinces in the country are increasing but at a slower rate than previously and all are still in the fourth wave. The fourth wave in Gauteng has peaked at about 90% of the cases of the third wave and it is now experiencing a sharp decrease in the number of cases compared to the third wave. Hospital admissions in Gauteng had peaked at about 50% of those of the third wave and excess deaths had remained low.

Winde and the provincial head of health Keith Cloete gave their weekly update on the spread of Covid-19 — mainly the Omicron variant — in the Western Cape.

The SA Covid-19 Modelling Consortium predicts that the Western Cape will see a peak in the fourth wave in the next week to 10 days.

Cloete pointed out that the rate of transmission of the virus had slowed significantly from the peak in the reproduction rate of 2.5 two weeks ago to 1.2, meaning that 10 active cases results in 12 new cases. “Transmission is much slower than two weeks ago,” he said. There had been a 48% increase in cases week on week with about 3,383 new diagnoses per day on a seven-day moving average. This compared to 3,567 new diagnoses at the peak of the third wave, 3,282 in the second wave and 1,311 in the first wave.

But Cloete cautioned that last week’s public holiday could have skewed the result as a four-day testing week was being compared with a five-day one.  The number of positive cases was at about 51%.

The number of hospital admissions relative to the number of active cases was much lower than in previous waves and were averaging at about 138 per day. This represented 5% of total cases compared to 11% at the peak of the first wave, 15% in the second wave and 17% in the third wave. “What we are seeing here is that the risk of admission is 40% lower in the fourth wave compared to the third wave,” Cloete said.

There are currently 826 people in hospitals due to Covid-19.  There had been no increase in the number of deaths compared to rises in the number of deaths at the peaks of the previous waves. Oxygen use has been low and has not increased rapidly. All this indicated that the number of severe cases was much less than in the previous waves.

There are 1,500 active cases among healthcare workers who have to isolate and quarantine at home which placed pressure on health services.

Cloete stressed it was too early to conclude that Omicron in itself was causing less severe disease or whether this was the result of heightened protection due to prior infection or vaccination. People who are vaccinated are less likely to suffer severe disease than people who are unvaccinated. There was clear evidence that reinfections due to Omicron could occur.

He said there had been 29,775 trauma admissions between October 1 and December 19 with 14,300 of these due to interpersonal violence which placed additional pressure on hospitals. Winde noted that there had been 106 deaths on provincial roads since the start of the festive season, 36 in the past week.



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