S Africa's economic hub Gauteng province now in third wave of C OVID-19, but no shutdown: Premier

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Johannesburg, May 16 (PTI) South Africa's economic hub of Gauteng province is now officially in a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic but a lockdown is not on the cards because of the huge impact it would have on the economy, Premier David Makhura has announced.

“The bad news for us in Gauteng is that we are no longer talking about the third wave (being) possible. We are there,” Makhura said ahead of the province declaring separately on Sunday that systems to implement the next phase of a massive vaccine programme from Monday were all in place.

“I’m not talking about the entire country, but we in Gauteng have arrived at the third wave. Early in the week we were still below that threshold of what defines a third wave, at a provincial level, but we are there now,” Makhura said at the official opening of a hospital in the mining town of Carletonville.

The 180-bed hospital was donated to the province by mining giant Anglo Ashanti in an attempt to help alleviate the expected increased pressure on the province's already overburdened health system with an expected rise in COVID-19 infections in the third wave.

Makhura said that between Tuesday and Thursday, the number of cases in Gauteng had jumped from 600 to 1,200.

“When you begin to experience a doubling of the number of cases every two (to) four days, it is really dangerous,” the premier said.

Makhura pleaded to the citizens to get the message out about not being complacent.

“People must not think that Covid is gone. The third wave is not a scare. Resurgence is happening at a rate which signifies that we in Gauteng are running ahead (of the country). At the moment our rate increase is more than any (other provinces).

“Don’t think you can go to a party on the basis that you got Covid earlier and you won’t get it now,” he said.

The premier said the province could not afford to shut down the economy with a lockdown, so people had to play their part to ensure that this did not happen through exercising extra vigilance.

The second phase of the vaccination programme starting Monday will target vulnerable groups who are 60 and older.

For the first time in several weeks, South Africa recorded over 3,000 new coronavirus infections over a 24-hour period on Saturday.

The Department of Health said 3,221 cases were confirmed, taking the known caseload to 1 605 252. There had also been 44 more Covid-related deaths during this period, bringing the total death toll since the pandemic started to 55,012.

The recovery rate has dropped to 94.7 per cent, with 1,520,878 people recuperating so far.

Almost a dozen cases of the B1.617.2 variant of COVID-19, first identified in India, have also been reported in South Africa, sparking panic in the country which prompted Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to earlier call for calm. PTI FH PMS PMS

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