Durban super-spreader events could cause cluster outbreaks, experts warn


People during a party in Ballito, South Africa.  (Photo by Gallo Images / The Times / Moeletsi Mabe)

People during a party in Ballito, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / The Times / Moeletsi Mabe)

  • Super-spreader events, such as the recent Rage Festival in Ballito, could result in cluster outbreaks of Covid-19, an expert has cautioned.
  • This as some private hospitals in Durban have already reported having full ICU wards.
  • The current surge in cases in the Nelson Mandela Bay area has been attributed to similar events at two universities.

Amid a spike in Covid-19 cases following a matric Rage Festival in Ballito, some private hospitals in Durban have reported having full ICU wards, Health Minster Zweli Mkhize has announced.

Mkhize confirmed that the Health Department has identified a number of Covid-19 cases arising from “these super-spreader events”.

“This is a clear illustration that large gatherings which involve the consumption of alcohol are a major risk and continue to undermine our efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Whilst government makes an effort to contain this virus, we now plead with all parents to also exercise their parental prerogative and set boundaries on activities that their children (specifically the youth) can participate in,” Mkhize said in a statement.

READ | Rage Festival: All attendees considered contacts, urged to get tested after Covid-19 cases – Mkhize

Dr Harry Moultrie, a clinical epidemiologist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said super-spreader events can often lead to cluster outbreaks.

He explained that the current surge in cases in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro was believed to be linked to two universities in the province. During October, there was an increase in cases in the 15 to 25 age group in these areas, and a few weeks later there was a widespread increase in cases in the province.

While there was no definitive proof, these cases among the youth were thought to be the cause of cluster outbreaks, he said.

He added that the infections from large events such as the Rage Festival had the potential to start an increase in transmission – both in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, where many attendees travelled from.

Moultrie said this phenomenon had been noted in various places in the world: infections among the youth often lead to a rapid spread of cases.

According to Durban doctor, Kams Govender, many patients seen at his practice appeared asymptomatic. Govender said 20 patients tested positive for Covid-19 in under 48 hours. All the patients were in the age bracket of 15 to 21, and had either attended, or had friends who had attended, Rage Festival events in Ballito. Govender added that the results on another 40 to 50 tests were still outstanding.

“Usually, youngsters have a robust immune system and recover very quickly with minor or no symptoms. However, this age group also tends to socialise in large groups and this will most certainly increase the spread of the virus during the festive period,” Govender said.

The potential spread of the virus to family members was particularly concerning, Mhkize added.

“It is clear that in these entertainment activities, most participants are not constantly conscious of good behaviour. This means that our youth is not only exposing themselves to the risk of contracting Covid-19, but they also put the lives of their parents, grandparents and other loved ones living with co-morbidities at risk.”

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