Western Cape health officials suggest that the fact of the province’s having nearly two thirds of national of cases means that community transmission ‘seeded’ earlier in the Western Cape, and that other provinces could soon follow suit.

This emerged from an online briefing by provincial officials yesterday.

In the briefing, officials shared graphics demonstrating how they had pinpointed hotspot suburbs and areas within suburbs the better to focus on dealing with infection outbreaks.

According to a report on the briefing on News24, Western Cape officials said they had identified clusters of outbreaks as ‘hotspots’, and focused on testing, screening, tracing, support, and prioritising treatment of the most vulnerable from these hotspots.

The officials said most of the cases in the province were among essential service workers, such as in the retail sector, and the projections by the province’s experts were that 90% of people would have no or mild symptoms.

It was hoping to manage those cases through self-isolation and quarantine where possible, assisting those who did not need to go to hospital with self-management, unless otherwise necessary. 

Positive cases in South Africa rose by 1 134 yesterday to 19 137. Deaths rose to 369.

It emerged yesterday that the consortium of experts advising the government had clarified their projections to show that 12 million to 13 million Covid-19 cases could cumulatively occur in the country by November, of which only roughly 3.7 million would be detected.

It was reported on Wednesday that the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium projected a figure of between 1 and 1.2 million cases. In a further media briefing by the consortium and other modelling groups on Thursday, in conjunction with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, News24 reported that ‘it has now been clarified that the one million cases are the expected number of active cases at the peak of the country’s infection curve at that specific moment in time’.

Peak infection was expected to occur between early-July (pessimistic, 1.2 million cases) and mid-August (optimistic, 1 million cases), according to the consortium’s model.

Of the projected 12 million to 13 million cases, 475 000 to 680 000 would require hospitalisation over time, Professor Juliet Pulliam, the director of the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis, who is part of the consortium, said.

It was also reported that the standoff between Professor Glenda Gray and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize continued yesterday, with Gray saying she had not criticised the lockdown, but had taken issue with the regulations. Gray, who is part of the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Covid-19, was reported at the weekend to have said the regulations were ‘unscientific’. In response, health minister Mkhize rebuffed the claims in a statement, saying Gray’s comments amounted to ‘unnecessary sensationalism’.

As the economic damage of the lockdown continues, the Reserve Bank cut the repo rate again yesterday, from 4.25% to 3.75%, with the prime lending rate falling from 7.75% to 7.25%.

In other virus-related news

  • The Financial Times reported that the downturn in activity across the eurozone had begun to ease as lockdowns introduced in some of its largest economies to help stem the spread of coronavirus were relaxed, although the bloc was still set for a historic economic contraction in the second quarter of this year. A widely watched survey of services and manufacturing business activity showed an uptick in May, from record lows the previous month, according to data published on Thursday;
  • The number of confirmed cases since the outbreak began passed 5 million;
  • The number of people who have died from the coronavirus is 328 000, according to Johns Hopkins University; and
  • The BBC reported that a further 2.4 million Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, despite hopes that easing lockdowns would help the economy. It said total claims since mid-March came to roughly 38.6 million – roughly a quarter of the workforce.

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