Eastern Cape's Covid-19 death toll leads biggest daily surge to date

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize at the launch of a field hospital for Covid-19 patients in Port Elizabeth.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize at the launch of a field hospital for Covid-19 patients in Port Elizabeth.
PHOTO: Gallo Images/Lulama Zenzile
  • With 400 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the Eastern Cape has recorded the highest Covid-19 death toll spike countrywide.
  • Covid-19 is expected to kill between 5 500 and 6 000 people in the Eastern Cape over the next three months.
  • The Eastern Cape now accounts for the third most of the country’s Covid-19 cases at 17.2%.

South Africa has 572 new Covid-19-related deaths – the biggest spike in a single day – with the most fatalities recorded in the Eastern Cape.

The cumulative number of deaths is now 5 940, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement on Wednesday night.

The total number of confirmed infections in the country is now 394 948.

The number of recoveries currently stands at 229 175, which translates to a recovery rate of 58%.

The total number of tests conducted to date is 2 585 474.

Of concern is the surge in deaths in the Eastern Cape, which increased by 400 deaths from 945 on Tuesday to 1 345 on Wednesday.

This is the biggest spike by far across South Africa's provinces: Gauteng recorded 114 new fatalities, the Western Cape 35, KwaZulu-Natal 18 and the Free State five. The death tolls in other provinces remain unchanged.

The Eastern Cape accounts for the third most of the country's Covid-19 cases at 17.2%. Gauteng stands at 36.6% of cases, followed by the Western Cape – the initial hotspot – at 22.2%.

Mkhize recently said the infection surge was upon the country. He added that the peak would be experienced from July to early September.

The breakdown per province as of Wednesday evening is as follows:

Graphic showing cumulative deaths per province

Last month, News24 reported that Covid-19 is expected to kill between 5 500 and 6 000 people in the Eastern Cape over the next three months. The projected deaths are expected to happen when the virus peaks between October and November.

The disturbing projection was contained in a report compiled by the Eastern Cape provincial command council.

READ | Covid-19: 'Overwhelmed' Eastern Cape asks for SANDF medical team's help

The report said: "If the modelling is correct the Eastern Cape is at the start of an exponential increase in deaths over the next three months. Based on the projections the cumulative death toll could be between 6 000 and 5 500.

"These peaks could be reached between October and November. This would require that infrastructure and support services would have to be put in place as a matter of urgency to deal with potential situations."

The report further stated it would appear that the province did not have enough capability in place to manage the demand of the pandemic. "Unless capabilities are exponentially and rapidly increased, the province will experience a situation where the demand will exceed supply."

Calls for Eastern Cape to be put under administration

On 29 June, DA health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube wrote to Mkhize demanding that the Eastern Cape be placed under administration in terms of Section 100 of the Constitution. "The pace of intervention in this province is causing more senseless loss of lives," Gwarube wrote.

"As I move across the Eastern Cape, it is clear that more people will lose their lives if urgent action is not taken. It is simply not enough for Minister Mkhize to send in a few people to support the province. An entire operational team is needed that will support facilities as a matter of urgency and close management is needed to prevent people from dying senselessly," Gwarube wrote.

"This government cannot simply ignore the plight of thousands of people in the Eastern Cape who are dying due to years of neglect of the health system. As the various parts of the country experience the crushing effects of this pandemic, every effort must be made to ensure that the system serves people as much as possible. Failure to do so is in direct contravention of the Constitution. The right to health is not being realised due to sheer state neglect."

In a reply dated 7 July, Mkhize wrote: 

What we are currently witnessing is different provinces facing challenges and at times appearing overwhelmed by this pandemic, this is not unique to what we see happening across the globe.

"This does not mean that the National Department of Health must place all these provinces under Section 100. This in my view would be a constitutional catastrophe that would disrupt us in our efforts to fight this invisible enemy. My view remains that where there are challenges and failures, we need to continue with interventions.

"Other areas, districts or provinces will require more attention than others. This, we are committed to addressing. And as you continue to write correspondence to myself, I would urge you to deal with specific issues, point [to] areas and even facilities requiring attention and make constructive proposals on how best we can intervene. These, I believe, would add so much value to the department and the country's efforts to fight Covid-19."

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