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Gauteng health workers hardest hit by COVID-19 infections

Experts are concerned about the rising infections in Gauteng, which is now reporting triple the number of daily new COVID-19 infections compared to the Western Cape.

FILE: Teams of field workers in Ekurhuleni District, Glen Marikana Informal settlement to form part of the screening and testing campaign aimed to combat the spread of COVID-19 on 17 April 2020. Pictures: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng officials on Monday said health workers at both private and public hospitals made up the highest number of COVID-19 infections in the province, with almost 2,000 having contracted the virus.

Experts are concerned about the rising infections in Gauteng, which is now reporting triple the number of daily new COVID-19 infections compared to the Western Cape.

The latest statistics show the province accounted for 28% of the country’s infections, which stood at over 144,000.

The number of daily new infections is on the rise in Gauteng with almost 3,000 new cases being reported in just the last 24-hour cycle.

Medical staff in the public sector have recorded the highest number of infections followed by those in the private sector.

The mining sector is another profession hit hard by the pandemic. Almost 500 Gauteng miners have tested positive for the coronavirus.

As schools prepared to welcome back more grades, the provincial health department said almost 400 educators had tested positive in Gauteng.

The department said it had put measures in place to stop the spread of the virus, which included the procurement of two private laboratory services and the establishment of district response teams, while screening and contact tracing continued.

At the same time, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku warned that the collapse of the provincial health system would spell disaster for the rest of the country.

Masuku said Gauteng was expected to overtake the Western Cape as the country’s COVID-19 hotspot in the coming days, and the possibility of a hard lockdown for the province had not been ruled out.

The MEC said the provincial health department was considering an intermittent lockdown, which was used in other countries.

“[Under an intermittent lockdown] there will be a period of time where [society] will be open and there will be a period of time where there will be a lockdown to contain the infection. It has helped in other countries and the literature has shown that it could be one of the options,” he said.

Masuku said this would reduce the rapid increase of infections and stabilise the health system.

“If we have the healthcare sector collapse in Gauteng, it generally means that the whole care system in the country has collapsed. So, we have to do almost everything to protect and save lives going forward,” he said.

Masuku said the department was also working on clearing the testing backlog.

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