Convention centre hospital closed as Covid-19 cases drop in Western Cape

The Cape Town International Convention Centre’s Hall 4 was one of the exhibition halls turned into a Covid-19 field hospital.
Image: Esa Alexander

The 850-bed Covid-19 field hospital at Cape Town International Convention Centre is closing after treating 1,502 patients.

Resources from the “Hospital of Hope” will be redistributed to other health centres as Covid-19 cases in the province continue their downward trend.

Western Cape head of health Dr Keith Cloete told a media conference on Thursday that hospital beds in the province are 70% full, with only 12% of those occupied by people who tested positive for Covid-19.

Resources from the Thusong Covid-19 field hospital in Khayelitsha have also been handed over to Medecins Sans Frontieres to be used in Butterworth, in the Eastern Cape, after the facility was closed.

Cloete said the National Health Laboratory Service in the province no longer had a Covid-19 testing backlog and that the criteria for testing would now be expanded beyond health- care workers and over-55s with comorbidities. A health department team is working on the new criteria.

By 1pm on Thursday, there were 5,249 active Covid-19 cases in the Western Cape. This is less than a third of the 17,612 recorded on July 6.

Premier Alan Winde encouraged people in the Western Cape to support local businesses.

“I had an opportunity in the last day to take a walkabout and I started speaking to some of the business people who have just opened again, and it was just great to see that they were positive,” he said. “But what really struck me was you meet a business but across the road you see a ‘to let’ sign, you speak to an entrepreneur and they would tell you how business disappeared, they’re no longer employing people or offering a service.

“That was really disturbing for me. I know that up until now we’ve been saying stay at home as much as possible. I’m now asking you to continue with wearing your mask, to continue cleaning your hands and use hand sanitisers, to continue to be absolutely aware of social distancing, but to go out of your homes and support a local business.”

Cloete said there would also be an opportunity to catch up on TB testing using mechanisms put in place to detect Covid-19.

There are also plans for a national “seroprevalence” survey to detect Covid-19 exposure in the general population.

Cloete said the province’s diabetes project also helped doctors to mitigate the effect of Covid-19 on diabetics, one of the most at-risk comorbidity groups.

“Mortality among this high-risk diabetes group who have presented earlier to us is 4.5% compared with the 27%-30% that it was before us introducing this project,” said Cloete.

The health department is looking at its database of diabetics to encourage them to go to hospital early if they have symptoms.

With a Covid-19 vaccine predicted to be 12-24 months away from being available locally, Cloete said behavioural change is the only intervention that will prevent fresh outbreaks.

BY ARON HYMAN

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