Ramaphosa concerned as COVID-19 ‘catastrophe’ unfolds in Gauteng

The country is in the grip of the third wave of COVID-19 infections, with numbers steadily ramping up in recent weeks.

FILE: Nurse Salome Nkoana, acting operational manager of COVID-19 ward at the Tembisa Hospital, checks the history of a patient infected with COVID-19 in Tembisa, on March 2, 2021. Picture: Guillem Sartorio / AFP

CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa has acknowledged he was deeply worried about COVID-19 infection rates in Gauteng.

Ramaphosa was responding to a question after briefing the media from the Port of Cape Town on Tuesday.

The country is in the grip of the third wave of COVID-19 infections, with numbers steadily ramping up in recent weeks.

Gauteng is bearing the brunt of the third wave so far, accounting for 6,000 of the over 9,000 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours.

"We are seeing infection rates that seem to be much higher than what we've seen before."

The president said the premier of the nation's most populous province and economic hub was dealing with the challenge as best he could.

"We are involved in a very, very serious situation in relation to the pandemic in Gauteng as well as in the Western Cape."

Ramaphosa signalled the need to consider drastic action in Gauteng to avoid the numbers spiralling out of control.

"The issue of moving on to another level is an issue that will be discussed by the NCCC."

He said government had always sought to maintain a balance because the lives of people were extremely important, as were their livelihoods.

'IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE'

Experts said it was a tad too late for Gauteng health authorities to step up now when they should've prepared for the third wave months ago.

This comes as the province continued to drive the nation's third wave of COVID-19 infections, leading the tally by about 69% of the caseload.

Hospitals in the province are bursting at the seams with more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients currently admitted, a fifth of which are in ICU.

“It is too late. We have a vaccination programme that is severely stalled, so, this province is entering the third wave unvaccinated with fewer healthcare workers. And a lot of the facilities aren’t even prepared,” said Professor Francois Venter, the head of the Ezintsha Health Unit at Wits University.

He said what was currently being observed in the province was nothing short of a catastrophe.

“The MEC for Health said they’re putting in plans and implementing things. This is very late to be doing this. Joburg is seeing the highest infection rate at any point of the pandemic across the country.”

Venter said some patients were waiting days to receive healthcare service.

“You have to have hospital beds. You have to have oxygen. We’re hearing of two-day waiting periods for ambulances. It really is not good news.”

He added that the Gauteng health system needed more than the military to help at this point.

“It’s only going to get worse. The hospitalisation lags by 53 weeks at the peak of infections and Gauteng is nowhere near the peak it seems. We’re so deep into this."

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.