News in South Africa 15th January:
1. Calls for Level 5 in hotspots:
Health experts have called on Gauteng residents to put themselves voluntarily into lockdown level five, warning that the peak of the second wave was still to come.
Experts also called on government to introduce online learning until there’s a clear downward trend beyond the peak.
UKZN’s Prof Mosa Moshabela said: “To reduce infections, I think people who can, should just stay home and work from home. Just take yourself into level five lockdown.”
Moshabela said Gauteng is by all intents and purposes in the middle of its surge. Now it is a question of how long it will take for it to peak.
“So far, Gauteng seems to be doing the right things in terms of ensuring the expansion of beds and oxygen capacity, but they really need to protect their health care workers,” he said.
Authorities have been criticised for not ensuring the province was equipped to deal with the surge, despite advance warning.
“KwaZulu-Natal suffered greatly because health care workers got infected, and they are not an easy resource to replace. So by all means, protect the health care workers.”
2. Stage 2 load shedding continues:
In a power update, the utility said Stage 2 loadshedding is due to continue until Sunday.
Numbers from Eskom suggested patchwork repairs continue to pile pressure on generation, with failures due to issues that are not, by a long shot, new.
“The system remains vulnerable and unpredictable, [and] should any further breakdowns occur, the stage of load shedding may change at short notice,” it said.
3. School opening debate flares up:
Government schools are due to reopen on 27 January.
But there are discussions underway already about whether it’s safe to reopen in hotspot areas.
On Friday morning the Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga is expected to hold a briefing on the state of readiness for schools reopening.
This comes after news that a marker at the Jeppe Boys marking centre in Johannesburg died from COVID-19.
Teacher’s Union Naptosa, says they support the reopening of schools but it may be too soon to go back yet.
“Everyone now knows someone who has passed away and this has informed our decision to support a recommendation and all the unions were at one with it, that we said we need to delay the opening of schools until the peak has passed,” said Naptosa executive director, Basil Manuel.
The NCCC has reportedly recommended that the reopening of schools be delayed to February.
4. Mozambique border situation dire:
The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has questioned why there is no political will to implement the regulations as more problems surrounding Covid-19 testing beset the Lebombo border post in Mozambique.
The committee conducted an oversight visit on Thursday following the chaotic scenes that unfolded at various borders posts, including Beitbridge and Lebombo, at the start of January.
During the oversight visit to the border post that connects South Africa and Mozambique, delays in the processing of travellers were observed.
Several frustrated South Africans and Mozambicans with work permits told the committee they have been waiting to cross into South Africa for almost two days.
The hold up, they said, was at the Covid-19 testing area, where travellers needed to do a rapid antigen test before being allowed to enter, if the test was negative.
5. Second wave takes toll on hospitals:
The last week saw the second-highest number of hospital admissions since the pandemic hit our shores. It was also one of the deadliest weeks, with more than 3 649 people succumbing to Covid-19.
These escalations have put pressure on the health system amid the second wave of Covid-19 infections. Dr Lungi Nyathi, managing executive for clinical risk and advisory at medical aid society Medscheme, said according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) numbers “the public sector is experiencing more deaths than the private sector.”
According to the NICD’s data, the last two weeks of July saw the highest number of patients put on ventilators — more than 700 per week. The past two weeks have seen South Africa return to those levels. Last week more than 650 patients needed ventilators.
Nyathi said that Medscheme had seen an increased number of admissions of its members in private hospitals in the second wave compared to the first.
In the week of 4 January 2021, there were 4 000 admissions, while in the week of 12 July 2020, which was the worst week of the first wave of Covid-19, it only recorded 3 188.
Global Covid-19 infections have hit 93.1 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 1.99 million. In South Africa, there have been 18,503 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,296,806. Deaths have reached 3,852 (a daily increase of 712), while recoveries have climbed to 1,049,740, leaving the country with a balance of 211,214 active cases.