South African Hospitals Under Pressure, Says President Cyril Ramaphosa
South African Hospitals Under Pressure, Says President. Photo: SA News

With the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and the increase in trauma cases, South Africa’s hospitals are almost full to capacity, according to SA’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“Our hospitals, both private and public, are already close to full capacity in a number of provinces, and ICU beds are either full already or rapidly filling up,” the President said during his address to the nation last night.

South Africa has breached the one million mark of confirmed COVID-19 cases after 9 502 cases were reported on Sunday, bringing the cumulative total to 1 004 413 cases.

“According to the data we have, with every relaxation of the restrictions on the sale of alcohol, the number of trauma cases reporting at our hospitals has increased.

“These trauma cases are putting an unnecessary strain on our already stretched public health facilities,” the President said, before announcing that South Africa would enter an ‘adjusted’ Lockdown Level 3 from Level 1 immediately, including a ban on the sale of alcohol, and consumption of alcohol in public places that was to start at midnight.

The President’s address followed a meeting on Sunday of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) and Monday’s special sessions of the President’s Coordinating Council (PCC) and Cabinet.

Ramaphosa said: “In the Eastern Cape, for example, the number of hospitalisations and in-hospital deaths has now surpassed the numbers witnessed in the first surge earlier this year.

“Several provinces are hard at work to prepare additional beds, ventilators and oxygen to respond to this increase.”

He said frontline healthcare workers, who have put their lives on the line over the past nine months to care for the ill, are becoming infected in higher numbers.

“They are exhausted, and they are struggling under the strain of the second wave. During the month of December, 4 630 public sector health employees contracted COVID-19, bringing the total number infected since the start of the pandemic to over 41 000,” President Ramaphosa said.

He said these brave men and women “are now at even greater risk than before. They are themselves almost at break point. They could lose their lives. More families will mourn. All because of our actions, and our failure to take responsibility.”

The President has attributed the rapid rise in infections to so-called super-spreader events, including like end-of-year functions, family and social gatherings, and music and cultural events.

“This is a cause for great alarm, and points to an extreme lack of vigilance over the holiday period. We have let down our guard, and unfortunately, we are now paying the price. We have not been wearing masks. We are not washing our hands or sanitising, and we are not keeping a safe distance from others.

“We have continued to host and attend social gatherings and events that in many cases flout public health regulations,” the President said.

He said venues are often poorly ventilated and their permitted capacity is being exceeded.

Hand sanitisers are not being used, and masks are being worn to gain entry, only to be taken off once inside.

“In these same social gatherings, the consumption of alcohol in restaurants, in nightclubs and taverns has contributed to risky behaviour like not wearing masks and not observing social distancing,” the President said.

In announcing Level 3, President Rampahosa said: “Unless we act now and unless we act decisively, the number of new infections will far exceed what we experienced during the first wave and thousands more people will lose their lives.” – SA

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