Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has warned that cluster outbreak infections could increase further in the Western Cape as the lockdown is eased.

During a virtual briefing of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mkhize reiterated that the uncontrolled increase of positive COVID-19 cases in the province were caused by cluster outbreaks.

He painted a picture of how the infections were rapidly transmitted from the workplace into communities of the Western Cape.

Mkhize says the outbreaks mainly occur in essential service workplaces. These include factories and retail shops.

In one pharmaceutical factory in Epping, close to 100 essential workers tested positive for COVID-19 in April.

“How did it happen? It means if somebody was not detected early because many people are asymptomatic, they were the essential services; food, food processing, factories for medicine production and so on. But when that happened, each one of the people who were infected went back to their townships and villages and suburbs and spread the infection there. That’s why we are having the explosion we are having in the Western Cape.”

In the video below, health officials raise the alarm on cluster outbreaks in the Western Cape:

Now that the virus has already spread rapidly especially in communities, cluster outbreaks continue to be recorded in various sectors. It also emerged this week how they are affecting the operations of the lower courts.

The Khayelitsha Court, on the Cape Flats, will not operate until the whole court has been sanitised after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. This was revealed by Deputy Minister of Justice John Jeffery who answered questions during a virtual briefing to Parliament’s Justice and Correctional Services Committee on Wednesday.

“As far as courts are affected, yes, Khayelitsha in one of them where I think it was a clerk that tested positive and the court is currently not functional and will probably function again from Monday because of sanitisation and things. The situation, I’m told, in the Khayelitsha Court is that Legal Id Officials are not wanting to enter the court until the whole court is sanitised, not just the area the clerk was in.”

Jeffrey also told MPs that the province, from Parow to Paarl, has also been affected by COVID-19 after some staff tested positive.

“A court orderly tested positive in Parow in a municipal court, that’s apparently separate from the main court. However, Western Cape is the epicentre; there are a number of cases. It could be orderlies who are actually South African Police Services members which occurred in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court. I know that the Paarl I think it’s a staff member. Stellenbosch I think it was an awaiting trial inmate.”

Hotspots identified

Now that cluster outbreaks of COVID-19 have spread into local communities, hotspots have now been identified. Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo recently explained how these hotspots have developed.

“We are on the hotspots which were as a result of the clusters that started in the lockdown Level 5 in the essential service workers. We have seen in the factories, in the South African Police Services; we have seen also in Correctional Services. Also, clusters that we saw later on, in old-age homes, and the clusters as health workers, noting that these people reside outside their workplace. Meaning that when they go home, especially with the workforce in the homes, in those areas where there is high density of people, the over-crowding that’s what resulted in these hotspots.”

Six hotspots have been identified by the Western Cape. They have been divided into sub-districts. The hotspots in the Tygerberg Sub- District, includes Bellville, Elsies River and Goodwood.

The other hotspots are Khayelitsha, Dunoon, Mfuleni, Imizamo Yethu, Phillipi as well as the Klipfontein Sub-District, which includes Delft, Gugulethu, Nyanga and Mannenberg.

In the video below, Dr Yogan Pillay sheds light on cluster outbreaks:

The Western Cape has most COVID-19 deaths and infections in South Africa.

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