The Western Cape currently has by far the most confirmed cases of Covid-19 from all the provinces in South Africa. By Thursday, 13,826 (64%) of the country’s 19,137 Covid-19 cases were reported in this province.
In contrast, Gauteng Prime Minister David Makhura boasted last week that this province has only reported 15% of all Covid-19 cases. By Thursday, only 12.8% of cases had been reported in Gauteng (2,453).
However, experts believe this does not necessarily mean that the coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably in the Western Cape or even that province has so many more cases than Gauteng. The Western Cape is simply ahead with cases because this province has the most effective testing capability nationwide. However, experts believe that South Africa has a large backlog in the number of tests done and the time it takes to process these tests.
By Thursday, the Western Cape had done a total of 100 721 tests. This is considerably less than Gauteng, where 166 394 tests were performed by this time.
However, Jack Bloom, a DA member of the Gauteng legislature, explains that the Western Cape does 50% more tests per capita than Gauteng, as it has a smaller population than Gauteng. Bloom also believes that the Western Cape is testing people in the right places (so-called hot spots). That’s why more people are testing positive in the Western Cape.
Bianca Capazorio, spokesperson for the Western Cape legislature, explains to Maroela Media that the legislature uses a targeted community testing and screening program. “It is used to specifically target areas where higher rates of infection are noted or where we believe there is a greater risk of infection. We also screened and tested around risk groups that developed in workplaces and supermarkets.
“This ‘wildfire approach’ is actively looking for cases and risks,” she explains.
However, according to Capazorio, it is not only this approach that has resulted in the Western Cape reporting a higher number of infections than any other province to date. “We have found that the Western Cape’s curve has accelerated faster due to entrenched community transmission which has resulted in a greater number of infections.
“If [other provinces] do not experience this, they will soon see these patterns emerge in the coming weeks as each province begins to experience the different phases of the virus,” Capazorio explains.
Connie Mulder, head of the Solidarity Research Institute, warns that it is therefore too early for any province to boast a low infection rate.
“Due to the overall nationwide isolation, provinces will be affected by Covid-19 at different times. People need to realize that everyone is going the same route as the Western Cape, although the virus does not spread equally. “
Mulder said that while the Western Cape’s test performance is better than that of other provinces, it is not sufficient at all, as South Africa’s testing capabilities are generally lacking.
Gauteng and the Western Cape sometimes wait longer than a week for test results to be announced.