Western Cape expecting 80,000 Covid-19 infections, says premier

Western Cape premier Alan Winde says testing for Covid-19 has risen to 3,000 people a day and will reach 4,000 by the end of April.
Western Cape premier Alan Winde says testing for Covid-19 has risen to 3,000 people a day and will reach 4,000 by the end of April.
Image: Twitter/Alan Winde

The Western Cape expects to have a shortfall of 750 critical care beds if the province hits an estimated peak of 80,000 Covid-19 infections, premier Alan Winde said on Tuesday.

To avoid this shortfall and “accommodate people as they get sicker and sicker”, everyone must practise hand-washing, social distancing and avoid gatherings as they move out of full lockdown into what is likely to be a phased lifting of lockdown, he said.

Winde was speaking as the number of Covid-19 in the province. Among those who have recovered, 87% have done so without hospital treatment.

The 2.9% admitted to intensive (critical) care were older, in line with global trends, while 8.4% of those with Covid-19 were admitted to general wards, said Dr Keith Cloete, head of the Western Cape health department.

Out of about 14,000 health-care workers in the Western Cape, 47 have tested positive for Covid-19 to date.

The Western Cape has 432 ventilators and another 100 on order, but they were only part of a “whole ecosystem”, he said. A shortage of critical-care nurses was restricting the expansion of critical-care beds.

Cloete said the department would increase its critical-care beds in the public sector by 100 and is in constructive negotiations with the private sector, which had extra critical-care capacity.

The Western Cape is setting up another 1,300 acute-care beds, to more than make up for the estimated shortfall of 1,000 acute beds needed at the predicted peak of infections.

To put in these extra beds, 17 “triage centres” are being built in the province, said Winde. Ten are ready and the other seven would be finished by the beginning of May.

“Our scenarios ... show us that we can expect, at the peak, 80,000 infections, and at that peak 90% of those people are going to be able to deal with the virus,” he said.

Currently in the province 101 people are in isolation and 340 are in quarantine. More than 100 people had been discharged.

Local transmission is escalating and community testing is up dramatically in the Western Cape, said Cloete.

“We are tackling bushfires. That is the single most important thing we are doing at this time,” he said, identifying this as the critical “suppression and containment” phase.

Specific clusters of infections, for example, among people working at factories or supermarkets, were driving these "bushfires". Then those infected with Covid-19 travel home and the virus moves into a different geographic area from where it originated, sparking another fire.

“We have a public health-care capacity of 3,000 tests per day and we are going to have 4,000 tests per day by the end of the month,” said Winde.

“The president is considering the evidence and will announce on post-April 30 lockdown arrangements - most likely a phased lifting of lockdown, with many control measures remaining in place.”


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