Dr Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare, says that the surge in COVID-19 cases and high admissions to hospitals in Gauteng are directly linked to the emergence of the Delta variant in South Africa.
“Initial modelling suggested that Gauteng would experience a third wave, which would be lower than the second wave but may last longer, in other words, the so-called ‘lower for longer scenario’,” Richard explains. “This appeared to be the case until the first week of June 2021, when the daily number of positive cases started to break the trend, rising exponentially on 15 June.
“Since then, it has been increasing rapidly – far exceeding the peak of both the first and second waves in Gauteng. Data released on Tuesday, June 29, confirms that the Delta variant was responsible for 53 percent of cases sampled in early June and 75 percent towards the end of June,” he adds.
This new variant is considered to be roughly 50 to 60 percent more transmissible than the Beta variant – the strain responsible for the second wave in South Africa.
“This explains the mounting surge in cases and admissions to hospitals. It also explains why we have seen whole families, school-going children, and younger people testing positive and why we have now seen the admission of patients in their in their twenties and thirties affected by the virus,” Richard says.
Even with the new restrictions in place to help curb the spread, it is crucial for South Africans to follow the guidelines to keeping safe, such as practising safe social distancing, wearing masks, regularly washing hands, using sanitiser, avoiding social gatherings and not touching one’s face.
In the absence of a completed vaccine rollout, we must rely on the strictest possible non-pharmaceutical preventive measures.
“Vaccination remains a vitally important step in the fight against COVID-19, and it is crucial that individuals are registered and vaccinated as soon as they become eligible. Now, more than ever before, given the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant, it is critical that everyone takes COVID-19 extremely seriously,” urged Richard.
Vaccination has thus far proved to be extremely effective in protecting our frontline workers. Of over 33 000 Netcare frontline workers vaccinated only 206 or 0,6 percent have experienced a breakthrough infection. Of those infected, only seven required hospitalisation.
“Test for COVID-19 if you are concerned that you may have contracted the virus and seek care from your general practitioner early if you feel unwell” Richard pleas. “Many persons unfortunately still wait until their condition becomes a life-threatening emergency, which does not only endanger them but places further pressure on emergency medical services, emergency departments and hospitals.”
“Flattening the curve of the third wave and seeking healthcare from a general practitioner early if you or a loved one start to feel unwell will go a long way towards improving individual health outcomes in many cases, and preventing bottlenecks in accessing emergency care at this critical time,” he says.