GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - With the Covid-19 second wave now abating, the provincial Health Department is assessing the impact of the pandemic on Knysna and Plettenberg Bay during the festive season.
On 15 December the Garden Route was declared a Covid-19 hotspot, and widespread booking cancellations followed even before an adjusted Level 3 lockdown was declared two weeks later.
Some visitors who had arrived in the towns packed up and left for home. However, the Knysna and Bitou sub-districts saw some tourists remain.
The Knysna and Bitou second wave started at the beginning of November and peaked roughly a month later, in the second week of December.
The numbers tell the story. In the three months between 28 October and 27 January, Knysna saw a 187,36% increase in total cases, and Bitou exhibited a 287,04% increase. By comparison, in the three months between 31 July and 28 October, Knysna's increase was only 69,09%, and Bitou's only 77,28%.
As the figures indicate, Bitou was impacted far worse than Knysna during the second wave.
"It's really very difficult to say [why], however we suspect Bitou sees a proportionally larger increase in tourists during the festive season, which could have contributed to the increase," said provincial Health Department spokesperson Nadia Ferreira.
Fears were that the drastic rise in case numbers between the end of October and the end of January would put significant strain on the local health system, but according to Ferreira the system coped well.
"It was under extreme pressure at times, with a high number of Covid-19 admissions (in particular the critical care units) and staff shortages due to staff being in isolation," Ferreira said. "Even so, the health system managed the situation and capacity was added as required."
The restrictions certainly helped ease the pressures brought about by the disease, as intended.
Trauma cases at Knysna Hospital on Christmas Day and New Year's Day were about a third of what they usually are on these days. This aided the hospital's ability to handle the extreme Covid-19 load.
"It also had almost no alcohol-related injuries or illnesses on these two traditionally busy days. Of much significance, there continues to be a major decrease in trauma patients across the district, since the revised regulations came into place."
As the second wave continues to wane in the region, Ferreira stated that "hospitals have had a decrease in admissions and none are under pressure".
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