Tighter lockdown regulations loom for Gauteng if cases keep rising

The nation's economic hub is in the grips of a bruising third wave, with more than 67,000 active cases.

Professor Bruce Mellado, member of Gauteng Premier’s Advisory Committee (PAC) on COVID-19, gives an update on the province’s fight against the virus on 24 June 2021. Picture: Twitter/@GautengProvince

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - The Gauteng Premier’s Advisory Committee on Thursday signalled it might be necessary to raise COVID-19 restriction levels in Gauteng.

The nation's economic hub is in the grips of a bruising third wave, with more than 67,000 active cases.

On Wednesday night, the province recorded more than 10,700 new infections - a figure far higher than infection rates at the peak of the first and second waves.

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The committee's Professor Bruce Mellado said the models they were working with suggested the worst was yet to come.

“So far, unfortunately, we don’t have indicators that point at the fact that we’ve reached the peak. We haven’t reached the peak yet.”

WATCH: Gauteng Provincial Command Council gives update on COVID response

Mellado told the media they would be watching the numbers very closely over the next few days.

“If today and tomorrow the numbers are the same level as yesterday, we certainly have to consider the possibility that we may be encountering a second spike. Of course, we’ll certainly trigger the alarm that we may need tighter and harsher measures to be implemented to curb the spread.”

Determining what measures are implemented is the responsibility of the national coronavirus command council.

But the provincial advisory committee has a view on what might work.

Chair of the committee Dr Mary Kawonga explained: "Level 5 is way too stringent, and it would have a disastrous effect on the economy and people’s livelihoods. One of the things we’ve been proposing is perhaps a hybrid of existing level 3 measures together with some level 4 measures in one if possible.”

OXYGEN SUPPLY SABOTAGED AT BARA HOSPITAL?

As the province battles a rising caseload and an imminent shortage of beds, the biggest academic hospital in Gauteng is dealing with its own crisis.

Chris Hani Baragwanath's CEO said they suspected sabotage after two issues with their oxygen system in as many weeks.

Two days ago, technicians were alerted to potential tampering with the tanks, disrupting the oxygen supply to patients.

No one knows how that happened because the tanks are mounted in a restricted area with camera surveillance.

Another disruption has also caused a disturbance in the way the regulator panel works, creating more glitches in oxygen supply.

Hospital CEO Dr Nkele Lesia said last month, the alternative building technology facility or ABT, which is used primarily for COVID patients, was also tampered with.

“The valve was switched off and it wasn’t supposed to be like that. At that time, we said our colleagues in public works needed to investigate this thing because they’re the ones who’ve got access to that area. We said please investigate because this is extremely serious.”

But there has been some positive news for Gauteng citizens as Premier David Makhura announced they would be opening vaccinations for law enforcement officials and for citizens between the ages of 50 and 59. That drive will start next week.

The premier also announced that Charlotte Maxeke Hospital would soon come online again.

It's been closed since a fire at the building, but he told a briefing they were waiting to hear from the facility on how many beds they could make available for COVID patients.

Whilst the hospital would not be at full capacity for some time, staff who were not needed would be redeployed elsewhere to help in the COVID effort.

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