Johannesburg- Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, says the country did not experience any spikes in Covid-19 infections following the various election campaigns and Election Day.
The Minister was briefing the nation on Friday morning on the country’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and the department’s vaccination plan.
“Thus far, 11 days after the election campaign and also…voting day, we have not experienced any super spreader side effects after the campaigns and the election day.
“We were assured by the Independent Electoral Commission about the [health related] preparations for the elections but we were concerned about the safety of campaigns by political parties but thus far, not a single district or a province has shown signs of a spike in Covid-19 infections,” Phaahla said.
The Minister added that the department and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) continue to keep a close eye on any potential spikes.
Four week steadiness
According to Minister Phaahla, infection rates and hospitalisations have remained stable with daily infections ranging between 200 and 500.
“The positivity rate has also remained at an average of 1%. As of [Thursday] we still had relatively high 16 000 cases but quite a reduced number compared to the peak of the third wave. Patients in hospital remain high although again, lower than at the peak…just over 3000 patients in hospital with just over 270 in high care and just over 400 in ICUs with around 164 on ventilation,” he said.
The Health Minister said the fatality rate has also come down with reported deaths over the last 24 hours reaching 17 – considerably lower than the at least 300 per day reported during the peak of the third wave.
“But of course, we feel that 17 deaths from Covid is still one too many so at the end we would want to see a situation where nobody dies from this pandemic,” Phaahla said.
Dr Phaahla warned that although Covid-19 related statistics remain low, the existence of the virus remains and it is “still causing a lot of harm”.
“A resurgence of infections which will introduce a fourth wave is expected as we can see in other countries – especially in some parts of Europe. Our national team is working with provincial teams to prepare for the inevitable fourth wave. We have to do everything possible to make sure we can delay it and make sure that even when it comes, it must have far less impact,” he said.
The Minister assured that health facilities are gearing up to:
Ensure oxygen supply through Afrox which has made contingency plans.
Making sure that beds are available.
Securing equipment such as ventilators, PPE and other consumables.
He said the fourth wave is expected either in mid to late December or even in early January.
“While no-one can tell with certainty as to when this fourth wave will be coming, there’s no doubt that it will come driven by movement of people but also driven by variants.
“Our genomic sequencing scientists are monitoring any variants of concern…thus far they have not reported any alarm in terms of variants. They always tell us that the mutations are happening…but the question is, are they variants of concern? Thus far they have said not yet,” he said.