Media release by Premier Winde on the Western Cape Government’s digicon
“It’s time that we do away with ALL COVID-19 restrictions and promote personal responsibility to kickstart the economy”
It’s time that we do away with all COVID-19 restrictions on mask-wearing and gatherings. In practice, this means that we need to allow congregations, convention centres, stadiums, and other economic hubs to operate at full capacity once again while we continue to safely navigate life.
By doing away with these restrictions, we will enable businesses to operate at full capacity and grow.
Residents should be allowed to practice the necessary behaviours that they deem fit and that they have learnt throughout the pandemic, to protect themselves and those around them.
Last month, I sent a letter to President Ramaphosa calling for an urgent President’s Coordinating Council (PCC) so that we can table our latest data in support of the complete removal of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions. No meeting has since been called and my office once again sent a reminder to the Presidency yesterday. We have still not received a response to the substance of this request.
We have made this call to the President because we can now safely and fully reopen our economy. This is because there has been a continued decoupling between COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations, and deaths. The clearest indicator of this is that in the Western Cape there has been a reduction in severe disease during the current resurgence and the fourth wave, compared to earlier waves.
Insofar as our province’s healthcare capacity is concerned:
- The number of daily new cases has decreased since last week to 458 new diagnoses per day.
- The PCR proportion of positive tests has decreased to approximately 24%.
- New admissions have decreased to 45 admissions per day and are declining. There is clear data supporting the decoupling of infections and hospitalisations.
- Absolute numbers of deaths have decreased and remain relatively low at, on average, 3 deaths per day. This points to the decoupling of infections and deaths.
- The reproduction number or “R” number continues to decline and is currently at approximately 0.55 for the province overall.
- We are exiting a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, and the Provincial Department of Health and Wellness is continuing to monitor this.
While the Western Cape briefly met the previous technical definition of a wave on 11 May 2022 – these cases stayed at this level for just two weeks and did not increase beyond 1200 new cases a day. As such, the National Department of Health did not declare the recent resurgence as a wave.
We, as a Provincial Government, are fighting for our residents’ businesses and jobs. The recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey has demonstrated that our country’s unemployment rate has reached a crisis level and needs to be addressed with the same urgency that we showed when confronting COVID-19.
It is for this reason, based on clear data in support of this call, that I call for the lifting of all remaining COVID-19 restrictions, and for this to urgently be done. Mr President, it is a time that you call for an urgent PCC.
“Despite having the ability to rapidly escalate our services, we have remained on the lowest alert level and have not needed to scale up”
Throughout this resurgence, our healthcare system has remained at the lowest trigger system – despite having the resources available to scale up our response where needed. The reason for this is that vaccines are working, and residents have a much higher rate of immunity.
We have refined the trigger-based escalation strategy for managing the impact of the resurgence in cases, for health and other sectors. At the same time, the Provincial Department of Health and Wellness has embarked on a sustained recovery strategy to normalise and mainstream our response to COVID-19.
Insofar as our acute service platform is concerned:
- The Metro hospitals have an average bed occupancy rate of 92%; George drainage area hospitals are at 77%; Paarl drainage area hospitals are at 80% and Worcester drainage area hospitals are at 79%.
- The critical care bed occupancy rate for designated COVID-19 beds for the province is 36%.
- COVID-19 and persons under investigation cases currently make up 3% of all available acute general hospital capacity in both Metro and Rural Regional Hospital drainage areas.
- COVID-19 inter-mediate care: the Brackengate Hospital of Hope currently has 21 patients, and Mitchells Plain Hospital of Hope has 0 patients. Sonstraal currently has 1 patient; Freesia and Ward 99 have 0 patients, and Harry Comay has 1 patient.
We have continued to see a decline in new admissions since the second wave when the peak daily new admissions for the public sector was 369. It continued to decline to 297 in the third wave and 186 in the fourth wave. Daily new admissions are currently at just 45 admissions a day.
“Vaccinations and prior immunity further demonstrate that we can safely do away with all restrictions”
Among COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the current resurgence, the risk of hospitalisation and death was 3.6 times lower in those who were infected where boosted. It was further found that severe admissions which include ICU, the use of ventilators or steroids were 4.3 times lower risk if the patient was boosted.
While we are starting to see a decline in uptake since April 2022, we have achieved a milestone of administering full primary vaccinations to 70% of those 60 years and older. I strongly encourage those of you who have not yet done so to get vaccinated or boosted.
Vaccines remain our best form of protection against COVID-19 and will allow us safely to do away with restrictions so that we can fully reopen our economy and claw back jobs.