An increase in Covid-19 infections in the past two days has raised a red flag over Buffalo City Metro.
East London, Bhisho, King William’s Town and Mdantsane have emerged as hotspots in the metro, mayor Xola Pakati confirmed on Monday.
So full are BCM hospitals that critically ill patients from Mthatha cannot be transferred and have to instead be moved to KwaZulu-Natal facilities.
This was confirmed by special health adviser, Dr Bevan Goqwana, on Monday.
In an interview with DispatchLIVE on Monday afternoon, Pakati said he was informed during a provincial command council meeting on Sunday that Covid-19 cases in the metro had shown a steady increase at the weekend.
Pakati said there was a combination of factors driving the spread, including flouting of the national lockdown regulations by people who failed to wear masks at social events, potentially spreading the virus to friends, family and others in the community.
“There was a report in the provincial command council, and BCM is one of the areas red-flagged.
“I am very worried about the non-observance of Covid-19 protocols.”
Despite officials having closed some public facilities, including beaches, Pakati said residents in BCM continued to show total disregard for the metro’s preventive measures.
“I went to the beach on Sunday just to look at what was happening.
“People were drinking and not wearing masks. Some were in the water. There was no social distancing.
“We recommended the provincial council bring to the attention of the national command council the beach matter.
“In our view, restrictions should be made.”
Pakati warned that infections were expected to rise dramatically as holidaymakers travelled to the metro in coming days.
“We are a labour-sending region to other provinces.
“People in George, which is an epicentre, and in Port Elizabeth, are going to come back here and we are likely to have an escalation of infections. It is inevitable,” Pakati said.
Goqwana said: “We might see the lockdown regulations imposed in Nelson Mandela Bay being applied to BCM and Chris Hani district.
“Numbers in BCM are going up, and that shows that people are not following the protocols of the lockdown.”
Goqwana, who is assisting the OR Tambo district joint operations centre, said both private and government hospital ICUs were full, and that officials were now moving patients who needed ICU beds to Durban.
“I don’t want to send them to East London because it looks like East London has its hands full.
“So those who have medical aid will be transferred to Durban,” Goqwana said.
Mabuyane revealed that by Monday, 41% of Covid-19 cases in the province were from Nelson Mandela Bay metro and Sarah Baartman. BCM, Chris Hani and Amathole districts had 41.5% of cases.
More than 16% of the Covid-19 cases recorded in the province by Sunday were from Alfred Nzo and OR Tambo districts.
Six of BCM’s public and private hospitals feature in the top 20 provincial hospitals in terms of the number of deaths reported since the outbreak of the pandemic.
According to Mabuyane, 50% of the deaths occurred in 13 public and private hospitals: Frere, Life St Dominic’s, Dora Nginza, Mthatha Regional, Netcare Greenacres, Livingstone, Life Beacon Bay, Cecilia Makiwane, Uitenhage, Life St Mary’s, Life Queenstown, Mercantile and St George’s hospitals.
The alarming infection rate among healthcare workers has left those still at work under severe pressure and struggling to cope.
Mabuyane revealed that by December 3, BCM had the highest number of healthcare workers testing positive for the virus in the province, with 2,042 workers getting infected and 33 succumbing to complications from the virus.
Nelson Mandela Bay has recorded 1,772 Covid-positive healthcare workers and 44 deaths.
In Amathole district, of 1,239 healthcare workers who have tested positive there have been 28 deaths. Chris Hani district recorded 977 positive healthcare workers and 17 deaths.
Mabuyane said there were 1,290 newly reported cases and 124 deaths in the province over the past weekend, bringing the cumulative number of cases and deaths to 136,772 and 4,878.
The report further revealed that over the past 10 weeks, BCM had witnessed a gradual increase in infections in all the subdistricts.
“The incidence in East London continues to show an upward trend, while Bhisho, King William’s Town and Mdantsane show a downward trend from week 48.”
The high rate of infections among healthcare workers threatens to collapse services at the health facilities in the province’s two metros.
“The spread of the virus is dependent primarily on the conduct of people, and we encourage residents to conduct themselves properly, because our health facilities will not be able to cope with the rate of infections if it rises,” Mabuyane said.
By Bhongo Jacob and Mfundo Piliso – DispatchLIVE