South Africa’s COVID-19 epicenter seeks thousands health workers amid surge in cases

South Africa's Health Minister


File photo: South Africa’s Health Minister with health workers.

The Western Cape province, South Africa’s epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, said on Saturday that it is advertising for 5,272 health workers amid a spike in confirmed cases.

The province must address its medical staff shortage before the pandemic reaches its peak, Western Cape Premier Allan Winde said in a statement.

The province is also working hard to prepare additional beds in the hospital system to ensure the capacity before the peak of the outbreak comes, Winde said.

During a visit to the province on Friday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa promised to address the urgent staff shortage.

“Money is not a problem,” Ramaphosa said, adding that the Western Cape will get what it needs to cope with the rapid rise in infections.

Ramaphosa issued orders to the Western Cape government to recruit more doctors and nurses to help deal with the increasing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations here.

As of Saturday, the province has recorded 30,379 confirmed cases and 729 deaths, accounting for over 66 percent of the nation’s total and more than 76 percent of the nationwide death toll.

Nationwide, the country has reported 45,973 COVID-19 cases and 952 deaths, according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

The total number of recoveries in Western Cape province has increased to 17,366, while a total of 193,035 tests have been conducted, according to the province, where there are currently 1,082 patients receiving in-patient treatment at hospitals, with 226 of them in ICU or high care.

Some health officials believe a possible reason for the high number of cases in the Western Cape is that the province, with Cape Town as its provincial capital, is a foreign tourist attraction, and that the virus had probably already seeded itself among Cape Town communities long before the first case was confirmed in KwaZulu-Natal in early March.