Parties, described as potential super-spreader events, are fuelling a coronavirus surge in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Thirty-eight of the 116 Eastern Cape residents who tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday live in the metro.
The city has seen a sudden surge in infections, rising steadily from 194 active cases on September 27 to 376 by Monday.
In total, there had been 21,744 recoveries and 1,082 deaths since the first coronavirus infections more than six months ago.
The most active cases the city has had was on July 26, with 13,613 people infected.
The statistics are contained in a provincial health department report released this week.
Dr Siva Pillay, who sits on premier Oscar Mabuyane’s Covid-19 provincial command council, said a “super-spreader event” such as a party would put the Bay in dire straights.
He warned that a “super-spreader event” appeared likely because people were throwing unnecessary parties and insisted on sitting down at establishments that sold alcohol.
“These parties are happening all over the city and our contact tracing teams are kept busy with such events,” he said.
“If people carry on with this nonsense at shebeens and parties, there will be a surge in the city.”
Municipal spokesperson Mamela Ndamase said the police and metro police had been notified and social gatherings would be monitored more stringently.
“They have been briefed on the regulations in this regard. As discussed in the joint operating centre on Tuesday, we will be giving these gatherings extra attention.”
She said the municipality had repeatedly warned residents about social distancing and sticking to other regulations.
“This Friday we will go to Nelson Mandela University as higher learning institutions have been highlighted as a concern due to parties taking place.
“We will not stop there. We will continue to visit the hotspot areas in the city to remind residents that the fight is far from over and ensure they comply,” she said.
Matric parties, such as the one at the Tin Roof bar in Claremont, Cape Town, that resulted in 89 new cases, led Westering High School principal Stuart Hayward to write a letter to grade 12 parents, urging them to keep their children at home.
“It has been reported that matrics are going out at night, socialising in large groups and not adhering to wearing masks and social distancing,” he said.
He said there was concern regarding a definite spike in infections and this sentiment was shared among all principals in the Bay.
“The matrics are careless and disregard precautions to prevent them from falling ill with Covid-19.”
He said any matric pupils who had been in contact with someone who had Covid-19 or fell ill because of the virus would not be able to write the final exams.
“They will be marked absent and will have to rewrite in June 2021.
“Already some schools are reporting cases of matric pupils who cannot write on Monday.
“If they are identified as contacts, they have to stay home for 10 days. If they become ill, they stay home for two weeks.
“This will derail their plans and they will have wasted an entire year.”
Hayward, when contacted, said he was not aware of any particular party linked to his school, but had heard about the celebrations from other principals.
“One has to be careful in these times so I decided to send a general letter.”
Hayward said it was a regular practice for matrics who missed exams to only be allowed to write their supplementary exams the next year.
“This used to be done in February but was moved to June.”
He said the school would have a matric dinner with smaller groups and strict social distancing.
Walmer High School principal Lunga Dyani said he had no doubt his pupils would be attending parties.
“However, we are constantly telling them about the dangers of such parties. We have been trying to get them to adhere to regulations.”
He said they had already cancelled the matric farewell due to the coronavirus.
“Pupils need to be more cautious. They are out there partying and it could end in disaster.”
The provincial report revealed that Uitenhage had seen the biggest increase in positive cases in the past seven days, with 19 confirmed cases.
Riebeek College principal Kieran Stear said they had repeatedly warned pupils to stay away from parties and to socially distance.
“If they had to miss an exam due to Covid-19 they would only be able to write again in June 2021,” she said.
Uitenhage was followed by KwaNobuhle, New Brighton and Kwaford, all with 16 cases.
Solomon Mahlangu High School principal Mncedi Mtegnwana said he was unaware of any partying by his pupils.
“We don’t support any kind of gathering during this time. We have equipped them with the knowledge to stay safe.”
He said the school had also warned parents to ensure pupils did not attend parties.
“If parties are happening, they would be outside the school environment, where we have no control.”
Pillay said: “A super-spreader event could see up to 50 people infected, and by the time we get all the results there would be a two-day gap with the virus spreading beyond our reach.”
He said many of the isolation sites had been “decommissioned”, meaning the city would not be able to handle a surge.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Bay Stadium stopped being used as an isolation facility in August.
“We have to rely on people to self-isolate, which is not happening in the city. Human behaviour needs to change urgently.”
Pillay said the number of Covid-19 cases remained steady.
“We are certainly not out of the woods by any means.”
Acting Bay mayor Thsonono Buyeye said the increase was concerning.
He said it showed residents were dropping the ball while the fight against Covid-19 was far from over.
“A few weeks ago our active cases ranged at about 220 and to see this jump is concerning.
“We do not doubt social gatherings have been the biggest contributor to this jump. We have seen it in the province and nationally, how parties have now become the main spreader of Covid-19.”
Municipal disaster management head Shane Brown said Motherwell remained the hotspot in the city, followed by Uitenhage, KwaNobuhle and Kwazakhele.
“People are very active out there. The numbers have jumped because there is too much socialising and no social distancing.
“People assume their friends or family members don’t have the virus and become careless, and this carelessness has seen several European countries enforcing lockdowns again. We do not want a stricter lockdown here.”
Ireland is the latest country to go back into lockdown as Europe battles a second wave.
Stricter measures have been put in place in many countries including Scotland, Italy and France.
Meanwhile, the Reverend Doctor Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital has started to do Covid-19 testing.
A truck has been stationed at the entrance of the hospital and will test those showing symptoms or if they have been in close contact with someone who has Covid-19.