Covid-19: Gauteng 'cautiously optimistic' as infections show downward trend

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David Makhura.
David Makhura.
@GautengANC, Twitter
  • The Gauteng Provincial Command Council is optimistic about the downward trend in Covid-19 infections and deaths in the province. 
  • However, the numbers are still too high, and caution should be taken to avoid a third resurgence. 
  • This includes maintaining the current lockdown level and adhering to safety protocols. 
  • Vaccines could be rolled out as soon as from Monday. 

The Gauteng Provincial Command Council (PCC) is "cautiously optimistic" about the downward trend in Covid-19 infections and deaths in the province over the past week, but warned that the numbers are still too high. 

The PCC, led by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, held a briefing on Friday to update the media and public about the province's current situation and possible future trends. 

PCC chair Professor Mary Kawanga said there had been a marked reduction in infections, but that the current rate of around 1 000 per day was still a high figure. 

READ | SA's First batch of Covid-19 vaccines to arrive on 1 February

"Indications are that the Covid-19 pandemic in Gauteng has peaked and is on a downward trajectory. This suggests a positive impact of adjusted Level 3 measures.  

"However, the second wave isn't over yet. While we are cautiously optimistic, the number of cases, deaths and excess deaths are still too high."

Kawanga said the PCC would monitor excess deaths "very closely" over the next two weeks" to confirm a sustained downward trajectory. 

In short, while the province is showing improvement, it is not out of the woods yet. 

Level 3 to remain in place... for now

The PCC recommends that the public remains vigilant and continues public health and social measures. In addition, Level 3 regulations should be maintained and people should avoid crowds, close contact with others as well as confined spaces as many people remain susceptible. 

While the impending vaccine rollout is good news as it offers the best chance of suppressing pandemic and getting out of lockdown, it will be while before herd immunity is reached. 

READ | Here's how registration for a Covid-19 vaccine will work in SA

Makhura emphasised that the alcohol ban had played a major role in reducing trauma cases, which freed up hospital beds to treat Covid-19 patients. 

"But we are not celebrating as yet," Makhura said. "Yes, we have a lot of capacity but too many people are still in hospital.

"The hotspots are still there - there are more than 300 in Gauteng. The next wave can easily be sparked." 

Wits Professor Bruce Mellado said that hotspots in the province had stabilised in severity and showed a downwards trajectory. 

"But the risk indexes are still too high, which increases the risk of a third resurgence." 

Vaccine rollout

The province was ready to administer vaccines as soon as they become available, and it aims to vaccinate 67% of the province's population, or 10.2 million people, to reach herd immunity. 

The vaccines will be rolled out as per national protocols, i.e. frontline healthcare workers; essential workers, such as teachers; people living in congregated areas such as prisons; people over the age of 60; those over the age of 18 with comorbidities; and all other people over the age of 18.

WATCH | Gauteng health to start vaccinations on 1 February, plan targets 10 million people

The first vaccinations could be administered as soon as Monday. The province has more than 1 600 sites available to be used for administering the vaccine, including hospitals, primary healthcare clinics in the public sector, and more than 1 200 community pharmacies, among other earmarked sites.

"Our committee is using artificial intelligence to device smart algorithms to most effectively prioritise the roll out of the vaccine to the population once phase 1 of the roll-out is completed. The aim is to reduce severe illness and mortality to the maximum as the vaccine is rolled out," Mellado said. 

"For example, vaccinating 20% of the population can lead to reduction of severe disease by a factor of 5. This means we can suppress the disease by 80%."

Makhura firmly dismissed conspiracy theories about vaccines and alternative remedies used to treat Covid-19. 

"Vaccines save lives," he emphasised. 

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