Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Wednesday said the province was already planning for the third wave of Covid-19 infections in order to save lives and limit the impact of the virus on the livelihoods of residents.
Health experts have warned a third wave of Covid-19 infections may hit South Africa sometime in June. But after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday allowing public gatherings under the country’s level 1 lockdown, concerns have been raised that the third wave could arrive earlier than expected.
While a third wave is likely, Winde said the Western Cape’s epidemiologists could not predict the timing, location or magnitude of a resurgence in coronavirus infections.
He said the province’s surveillance strategy focused on three key areas that include determining places where previous infections occurred and the molecular characteristics of new infections.
“Between peaks, our focus must be on containment and ensuring that clusters of cases related to a specific place or event do not result in widespread community transmission,” the premier said in a statement.
“Once community transmission has been established, containment efforts become ineffective and the focus must then shift to mitigation measures to reduce the numbers of deaths, ensure that our healthcare system does not become overwhelmed and protect our healthcare workers.”
Winde said the province’s containment response would focus on prevention behaviour and increased testing and surveillance.
“While our mitigation measures include retaining our core field hospital capacity and making use of the additional infrastructure put in place during the first two waves. To contain infections, community behaviour remains key to preventing Covid-19. A surveillance and outbreak response is also important to ensure we are able to closely track and respond appropriately,” he said.
On vaccinations, the premier said Western Cape was on track in its rollout of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Sisonke implementation study to vaccinate healthcare workers.
“We have completed our first tranche of just more than 13,000 vaccines and the second tranche is being rolled out. Today [Wednesday], the first healthcare workers outside of the metro started receiving their vaccinations in George, while vaccinations in Worcester and in Paarl will begin soon.”
Winde also called on the province’s residents to take personal responsibility by practising health and safety protocols like sanitising, social distancing and wearing masks.
“The country has just moved to Level 1, allowing for more movement and congregation and the coming weeks, public holidays and Easter weekend will see more people moving around and congregating, increasing the risk of infections. It is imperative all act more responsibly than ever before.”