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Pretoria – The Netcare hospital group has said the Delta variant is stretching its capacity to the limits in hospitals.
According to the hospital group, the effect of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is far worse than the second wave. There are more than 2 600 Covid-19 patients in Netcare hospitals in Gauteng alone.
“This is 45% higher than the 1 792 patients we had at the peak of the second wave, and almost 100% higher than the 1 377 patients admitted during the peak of the first wave in Gauteng,” said Dr Richard Friedland, chief executive of the group.
According to him, the surge in Covid-19 cases and high hospital admissions are directly linked to the emergence of the Delta variant.
“Initial modelling suggested Gauteng would experience a third wave, which would be lower than the second wave,but may last longer – the so-called ‘lower for longer scenario’.
“This appeared to be the case until the first week of June, when the daily number of positive cases started to break the trend, rising exponentially since June 15.”
He said from then it had been increasing rapidly – far exceeding the peak of both the first and second waves in Gauteng.
Data released on Tuesday confirmed that the Delta variant was responsible for 53% of cases sampled in early June and 75% towards the end of June, Friedland said.
He explained that the Delta variant was approximately 50-60% more transmissible than the Beta variant, which was responsible for the second wave in South Africa.
“It also explains why we have seen whole families, school-going children, and younger people testing positive, and why we have now seen the admission of patients in their twenties and thirties affected by the virus,” he added.
While he welcomed the more restrictive lockdown measures, Friedland remained extremely concerned about the situation in densely-populated Gauteng. He said it is crucial individuals are registered and vaccinated as soon as they become eligible.
Friedland said vaccination has proved extremely effective in protecting their front-line workers. Of the more than 33 000 Netcare front-line workers vaccinated, only 206 or 0.6% have experienced a breakthrough infection, and of them, only seven required hospitalisation.
“We have already started scaling down on non-urgent surgery and medical admissions at our coastal hospitals, and some have suspended such surgery to rapidly create capacity for the expected increased Covid-19 patient numbers.”
“To free up beds for Covid-19 patients, only medically necessary, time-sensitive surgeries will continue, as well as emergency admission of non-Covid-19 patients,” Friedland said.
To create further capacity, plans are in place to convert certain Medicross day theatres and other facilities to accommodate Covid-19 patients, if needed.