The Cape Winelands has been identified as one of the hotspots for COVID-19 in the Western Cape. The district municipality is the largest in the province, and includes towns such as Stellenbosch, Paarl and Ceres.

It is also a major agricultural region producing grapes, apples and wine.

The Cape Winelands District Municipality comprises 22 towns and has a population of nearly 900 000 people.

Recently, the fruit producing region of Witzenberg, which falls within the Cape Winelands came under the spotlight. It had the highest rate of COVID-19 infections and transmissions outside the Cape Town Metro.

One of the 19 triage and testing centres set up across the province opened at Ceres Hospital. This is to deal with screening, testing and treatment of COVID-19 cases. The number of hospital beds has also been increased.

Director of the Cape Winelands District Health, Dr Lizette Phillips, says communities have high population densities which makes it easier for the virus to srpead.

“COVID-19 is more infectious than the flu. Many communities are densely populated which makes it easier for the virus to spread quickly. The virus spreads when people move or gather for example in our communities and our workplaces. As this is a whole of government initiative and all spheres of society are involved we are able to pool our resources to fight COVID-19 and to mitigate the impact in our communities.”

Most rural municipalities in the Western Cape have around 50 cases of COVID-19. But in the Witzenberg Municipality, the numbers went from zero to over 100 within two weeks. There are currently 851 cases of which 386 have recovered in the entire Cape Winelands District Municipality.

“There are many initiatives including prioritising support for vulnerable communities who are at risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, especially our older people and people who have underlying health conditions and very importantly our healthcare workers,” Dr Phillips explains.

In Ceres, a major apple production region, stringent measures have been put in place in packing facilities and in orchards, as well as on most farms in the region.

The Cape Town Metro and the West Coast are some of the other municipalities within the province flagged as hotspots for the virus.

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