“Jab before you jol and jive.” That’s the message from Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla.
He was speaking on Friday morning during a virtual briefing on the state of Covid-19 infections in the country.
Gauteng is still reporting the highest number of new cases per day, but authorities have also seen a spike in infections along the country’s coastlines.
“While Gauteng province is still reporting the highest number of new cases per day, the numbers have risen rapidly in the coastal provinces and in all nine provinces resulting in Gauteng accounting for 25% of new infections yesterday [Thursday] compared to 70%-80% of cases 7-10 days ago.
KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has recorded an increase in the number of new cases in the past week.
The new infections come as the province receives an influx of domestic visitors for the 2021 festive season.
KZN observed an increase in incidence risk in the public and private sectors in the first two weeks of December.
The number of ICU admissions have been fluctuating since the beginning of December. Of the 22 patients in ICU, nine (41%) are on ventilation in public hospitals. The majority of the ICU patients (55%) are in the eThekwini district.
But the Department of Health says facilities have sufficient oxygen capacity, and personal protective equipment (PPE) is available at all health facilities.
Violent trauma and accident cases increase in KZN
There’s been an increase in the number of car accident, trauma and violence victims admitted to KZN’s health facilities.
Between 22 November and 12 December 2021, a total of 9,240 trauma cases, 5,269 violence cases and 3,032 accident cases were reported.
Trauma cases include assaults, gunshots and stabbings are most prevalent.
Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital, situated in Umlazi township, has the highest numbers of trauma, accidents and violence cases, followed by Addington Hospital, which is situated along the beach in the eThekwini metro, as well as Harry Gwala Regional Hospital in Umgungundlovu district.
Gauteng could be past the fourth wave peak
The number of cases in the fourth wave has exceeded the peaks of the third, second and first waves.
The positivity rate has also risen steeply across the country, with Thursday’s average at 31%.
Eight provinces have recorded positivity rates of 30% and above, with only Gauteng below 30% at 25%.
In the last seven days, new cases have increased by 36.6%.
Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, and Northern Cape have shown more than 100% increase in daily new cases compared to seven days earlier, which confirms a rapid increase nationwide.
But the good news is the recovery rate is at 91%.
Early indications suggest that the peak has been reached in Gauteng, but there is a rapid increase in the other provinces.
Declining vaccination rates concerning
This time around, infections are characterised by milder symptoms. But this does not necessarily mean that the virus is less virulent.
The milder symptoms could be due to the significant vaccine coverage of over 60s at 66%, over 50s at 61% and national adult coverage of 44%.
“We are very worried about the drastic decline in uptake of vaccines especially in the last 7-10 days with daily doses average between 100,000 to 130,000,” said Phaahla.
“The Covid-19 virus is still going to be with us for a long time and the only way to reduce its power with a possibility of permanent defeat and a return to normal life is vaccination,” stressed Phaahla.
Phaahla said most citizens would be travelling across provincial borders, from places of work in the cities to rural areas and holiday destinations. He emphasised the importance of travellers to maintaining safety precautions and above all, to “jab before you jol and jive”.
“A number of fixed vaccination sites will remain open and provinces will also provide pop up sites in many places such as shopping malls,” said Phaahla.
“We also call upon all South Africans to celebrate responsibly especially with regard to alcohol consumption. Our health facilities are already under a lot of pressure with Covid-19 and other existing health conditions,” he said.
“Our health care workers are physically and emotionally exhausted, please let us feel for them by behaving responsibly.”
Compiled by Narissa Subramoney