If you’re still hitting the pub for a few beers with your friends after work, you may want to get your head out of the sand and start paying attention to the devastation around you.
Covid-19 is not a conspiracy theory that was cooked up by big pharmaceutical companies and politicians, it’s real and it’s infecting and killing South Africans at an alarming rate.
This advice is mild compared to the bombshells dropped by Gauteng Premier David Makhura on Monday.
With Gauteng currently in the third wave, Makhura warned that “the house is on fire” and the province could run out of Covid-19 beds in seven days if drastic measures weren’t taken.
Worst case scenario
On Thursday, the Gauteng Provincial Command Council (PCC) gave an update on Covid-19, where Professor Bruce Mellado said the province was already in a “worst case scenario”.
“Unfortunately the worst case scenario has materialised in that the modelling of the worst case scenario describes relatively well the data.”
This is after 10,800 Covid-19 cases were recorded in Gauteng alone in a 24-hour period, the highest single day increase since 14 January when 8,503 cases were recorded.
Mellado gave predictions based on the available data, saying the provincial government was concerned about the fact that cases almost breached 11,000.
“If we see the same trend today and tomorrow then we will have to sound the alarm,” he said.
Mellado said high mobility and diminished adherence to social distancing were some of the causes of the increase in case numbers.
He explained the fact that the worst case scenario for the third wave is expected to be less than the worst case scenario of the second, does not mean that the third wave will be better than the second.
Dr Mary Kawonga, chairperson of the Gauteng premier’s advisory committee on Covid-19, said a worst case scenario was not inevitable, however, the province needs tighter restrictions.
“Level 1 did not work. It wasn’t efficient. We moved to alert level 3… we are now eight days in, but we haven’t seen any impacts yet. We expect two weeks before we start to see visible effects of alert level 3.
“However, I [want to] say that the worst case scenario is not necessarily inevitable. We need tighter restrictions and we need to balance the health with the economic [livelihoods] considerations.
“One of the things we have been proposing is perhaps a hybrid of existing level 3 measures together with some level 4 measures if possible, but as we know, often the decision for lockdown level or imposing more stringent measures lies with the national level of government.”
Hospitalisation and bed capacity
Makhura said 5,800 people were hospitalised as of Thursday, which jumped from 3,800 a few days ago.
The premier highlighted that the increase in cases meant that hospital admissions would rise and continue to place strain on the health system.
“Behind the numbers or the surge is hospitalisations. So when you see so many people infected, even though there will be people who recover, the question is… how many people are getting into hospitals.”
As of Wednesday night, more than 10,000 patients were being treated in both public and private hospitals for Covid-19.
Makhura said the provincial government was working with the private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGO) to enhance personnel and bed capacity.
“I meet regularly with the private healthcare management to better manage bed capacity in the province.”
Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital reopening
Makhura announced that Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital will be reopened, starting with the cancer unit on 28 June.
“Thorough assessments have been done on Charlotte Maxeke Hospital. We have met with various groups including engineers, clinicians and lawyers. Reopening the hospital will not fix the problem but it will alleviate the burden on other institutions,” he said.
The reopening of Blocks 1 and 2 at the hospital will be next, followed by parts of Blocks 3 and 5. Then Block 4 will take a little longer to reopen due to the level of damage caused by a fire.
Meanwhile, DA Gauteng shadow MEC for health, Jack Bloom told The Citizen the premier did not, however, clarify whether the hospital’s ICU beds will also be made available from Monday.
“It is critically important that the ICU beds are available to save lives in this crisis. We need to know when all the sections open in addition to the cancer unit,” Bloom said.
Brand new Covid-19 hospital still unoccupied
The R460 million Covid-19 AngloGold Ashanti hospital in Carletonville in the West Rand also still stands empty as Gauteng continues to fight a losing war against the third Covid-19 wave.
Speaking to News24, a Gauteng paramedic painted a grim picture of ambulances waiting four to five hours outside hospitals with their patients until a bed is freed up.
When The Citizen pressed the department of health in Gauteng on Thursday for an indication on when the hospital will be opened, media liaison Philani Mhlungu said: “It’s a bit tricky, I am still waiting for responses. You are not the only media house wanting answers. I’m yet to get the responses.”