With Christmas and the New Year on our doorstep the Western Cape Government has adopted a three-pronged approach to help contain the Covid-19 resurgence in the province, said Premier Alan Winde.

According to him this includes a continuation of its health response to ensure that every person gets care when they need it; a campaign to help change behaviour to prevent new infections; and increased enforcement of existing Level 1 regulations that will ensure the compliance needed to contain the virus.  

“Together these three pillars are the best way to roll back the resurgence, while keeping our economy as open as possible. This is how we intend to save both lives and livelihoods,” said Winde.

South Africa has passed the 100 000 mark in active cases, with more than 33 000 of those in the Western Cape. Meanwhile, a new Covid-19 variant is said to be accelerating the spread of the virus.

Western Cape Health head Dr Keith Cloete said the active cases are at an all-time high. “It’s the highest we’ve ever had and that has resulted in more than 2 400 people currently being admitted in hospital.”

This means hospitals in the Western Cape are currently under severe pressure, with the province’s Health Department stating the 231 adult ICU/high care beds across hospitals are currently fluctuating between 80 –100% total capacity daily (technically full). An additional 136 dedicated adult ICU Covid beds were made available, bringing the combined ICU/high care beds to 367. The department urged patients with non-emergencies to access healthcare services at their local clinic and only visit the hospital emergency centre for serious emergencies.

“The protracted pressure on scarce health resources may result in possible delayed admission to hospital or the possibility that certain service packages cannot be rendered. To assist the teams the Department has initiated ethics committees to support the clinical decision making. 

“Both clinical decision making and access to certain care packages will, by necessity, be different to those experienced in normal day-to-day services – for both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients. These are unprecedented times globally and require us to take unprecedented actions to support the most vulnerable patients. Senior management fully supports clinicians in this very difficult time as their decisions are guided by equity, fairness, dignity, and engagement,” the department said in a statement.

“In the Overberg there are currently 82 patients in Covid-19 wards across the district, 37 of which are patients under investigation. As hospitals in the Overberg are district hospitals, patients who require intensive care are transported to Worcester and Tygerberg Hospitals,” the department said.

Dr Gerrit de Villiers, Group General Manager: Clinical Performance, Mediclinic International said the second wave has resulted in a strong demand for care. “In the Western Cape, it has now become clear that the numbers of patients seeking care within our hospitals has exceeded previous numbers during the first peak and that the demand in many of our ICU and High Care units has reached capacity.

“While the situation remains fluid, Mediclinic Hermanus’ ICU and High Care units remain under extreme pressure. Where the facility is unable to accommodate any further patients in these units due to lack of additional resources, a decision will be made to divert emergency services for a period of time. This decision will be constantly reviewed and withdrawn when the unit is once again able to receive patients,” he said.

New Covid-19 variant spreading faster

Over the weekend National Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that a new Covid-19 variant is said to be accelerating the spread of the virus. He revealed that they were confident that the second wave could be ascribed to this new variant which appears to be more potent and transmissible, although it is unclear whether it will cause higher mortality rates or more severe illness.

Prof Salim Abdool-Karim, co-chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, noted how the second wave has “well and truly overshot the peak of the first wave in the Western Cape”. He said he was concerned that a higher viral load being picked up in nasopharyngeal swabs may mean higher transmissibility. “This second wave may be different in some ways – it may be that people who had the virus before it changed can now be infected with SARS-CoV-2 for a second time. It may be that the virus spreads more easily; or causes slightly more severe infection,” he said.

In the Overberg there are currently two facilities for quarantine and isolation. Those who cannot safely quarantine and isolate at home are urged to make use of these facilities. If you are in the Overstrand, contact 028 312 1166 or Erma.Mostert@Westerncape.gov.za; in Theewaterskloof contact 028 212 1070 or Makondelele.Rambiyana@Westerncape.gov.za; and in Cape Agulhas contact 028 424 2652 or Johannes.Schoevers@Westerncape.gov.za.

The Western Cape Health Department on Monday announced temporary service delivery changes in Overberg health facilities. These include the restriction of in-hospital visitations and therefore no visitors to public health facilities will be allowed. 

A departmental spokesperson said health facilities in the Western Cape are still subject to strict adherence to health protocols. “If you have any questions about visitation restrictions, please call the hospital in question to enquire. We understand that it is difficult not being able to visit your loved ones, but we ask for your understanding and cooperation.”

No person will be allowed inside Western Cape Government Health facilities without wearing a cloth mask covering their nose and mouth. 

In addition, the following changes in the current service delivery offering include:

  • Non-urgent outpatient appointments will be postponed, and patients given alternative dates
  • Non-urgent elective surgery will be postponed, and patients provided with a later date
  • Patients who are in hospital but are stable will be discharged for further management at home or at a step-down facility
  • Outreaches from district and regional hospitals will be suspended.

Emergency services that will continue are: emergency surgery, obstetric surgery, high risk obstetric clinic, fracture clinic, limited eyecare and eye surgery, and allied health for emergency cases.

 Amended services at clinics include:

  • Medication delivery to stable chronic patients will continue, either to the home or the small community groups that have been set up already
  • Medication will be given for longer periods where possible
  • Essential services will continue, such as TB and HIV screening and treatment, chronic care, family planning, immunisations, and antenatal and postnatal care
  • Dental services limited to emergencies only
  • Eyecare services limited to emergencies only
  • MOU’s (midwife obstetric units) will continue to operate.

Patients are encouraged to make an appointment before visiting a healthcare facility, by calling their local clinic.

Overstrand Mayor Dudley Coetzee said Covid-19 has had a direct impact on the region’s protection services who have been rendering an essential service since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Coetzee confirmed that Overstrand beaches will remain open between 09:00 – 18:00. “We were given the privilege to allow our beaches to stay open so that they can be enjoyed – please be responsible and heed the Covid-19 health and safety advice,” he added.

He said Overstrand is expecting an influx of visitors and while this is good news for the tourism economy, it will have a huge impact on service delivery and law enforcement agencies during the season.

He urged everyone to support Premier Winde’s plea to all residents to wear a mask when they leave home, to wash hands regularly, and avoid queues wherever possible. “In instances where you must queue, ensure that you are keeping 1.5 metres apart. If you are entertaining family and friends at home, keep the gathering small and try to keep it outdoors. Drink responsibly and do not share drinks, cigarettes, or cutlery. If we can encourage residents and visitors to do that, we will defeat this virus.”

The municipality’s operational plan for this period will include the following:

  • Increase law enforcement presence during the festive season with a zero-tolerance approach
  • Visible patrolling on a 24/7 basis
  • Random roadblocks
  • On-going policing of issues such as speeding, drunken driving and vehicles that are not roadworthy
  • Prevention of social crime
  • Effective beach monitoring and control.

From Tuesday 22 December Mediclinic Hermanus has withdrawn visiting hours. “While we understand that visiting hours are important to our patients’ recovery, we believe that this is currently the most appropriate decision,” the hospital said.

According to Mediclinic exceptions will be made for visits to Neonatal ICU (one parent at a time), visits to the paediatric unit (one parent may live in with their child), visits to the maternity unit (father / partner may visit), and visits to critically ill patients (visits per arrangement with hospital management).

PLEASE NOTE: The 24-hour Fire & Rescue control room is contactable on 028 312 2400 (fire, accidents, drowning etc). For day-to-day law enforcement complaints, phone 028 313 8996 or other safety and security issues, phone 028 313 8980. For general enquiries phone Overstrand’s control room on 028 313 8000 or 028 313 8111 for basic services emergencies.

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