Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
18 Jan 2021
7:09 pm

Not out of the woods but promising signs of virus decline in SA, says Mkhize

Molefe Seeletsa

South Africa's health care system continued to experience significant strain with hospitalisations continuing to trend upwards.

Covid-19 patients being treated at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital on 11 January 2020 in Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has revealed that South Africa has seen some promising signs of decline in Covid-19 transmissions. As of Sunday, the country has seen a 23% decrease in cases compared to the previous seven days.

Making his opening remarks during a panel discussion on Monday evening, Mkhize said the reduction was contributed to a number of elements, including the amended lockdown level 3 regulations, the wearing of masks, social distancing, hand washing and sanitising.

Mkhize also indicated that the South Africa’s health care system continued to experience significant strain with hospitalisations continuing to trend upwards, showing an 18,3% increase on 16 January compared to seven days prior.

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“As at 16 January, nearly 18,000 (17,878) patients were admitted, with 2,472 in ICU, 1,117 on ventilators and 5,850 requiring oxygen.

“This is a significant additional burden to the system and we must salute our health care workers for their stamina and courage as they continue to battle it out in the forefront,” Mkhize said.

New variant

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee chair Professor Salim Abdool Karim said the new Covid-19 variant, known as 501.V2, has 23 new mutations, which has systematically spread.

“We have been seeing a drastic difference in the first wave when compared to the second wave and we can see it in the impact it’s having in the provinces.

“As we go into our second wave, we see the number of recorded deaths once again exceeding those predicted for that time period.

“We have seen that the new variant has spread much faster, it is left to be seen if it will end much faster. Mathematical modelling estimates that the virus is 50% more transmissible than previous variants,” Karim said.

Karim noted that the risk of dying from Covid-19 was no different among age groups when compared across both waves.

He said the B.1.1.7, identified in Britain, was 56% more transmissible than pre-existing variants, while data also suggested that there was no evidence that the 501.V2 variant was more severe than the original Covid-19 variants.

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“The new variant is not causing more severe disease, but is putting more pressure on hospitals which may lead to an increase in the number of Covid-19 deaths,” he added.

On the Covid-19 vaccine working against the new variants, the professor added that it was too early to speculate.

“We don’t yet have an answer. We’re expecting an answer very soon. But it’s too early to speculate until we know more,” he said.

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