As confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in South Africa, Social Development Deputy Minister, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, has appealed to the public, particularly caregivers in residential care facilities, to keep older people safe and protected from contracting the virus.
"More than ever before, we need to do more and play our part and focus on keeping our older persons protected from COVID-19, as they are particularly vulnerable due to their advanced age, weak immune systems and other underlying health conditions.
"Our collective responsibility is to give them love and care to enjoy their golden days to the fullest," Bogopane-Zulu said.
The Deputy Minister made the appeal on Tuesday during her assessment visit at Lodewyk Spies Old Age Home in Eersterus, east of Pretoria, to ensure compliance with level 3 regulations.
Lodewyk Spies Old Age Home is registered as a 24-hour residential care facility, in terms of the Older Persons Act (Act No. 13 of 2006).
The facility is funded to the tune of R4 million by the Provincial Department of Social Development in the current financial year.
The Deputy Minister's visit formed part of the department's drive to ensure that all 418 residential care facilities for older persons countrywide comply with measures to prevent and contain the spread of Coronavirus.
To date, no positive case of COVID-19 has been reported at the facility, which currently caters for 96 older persons.
During her visit, the Deputy Minister also handed over personal protective equipment, including hand soap, soup and tea to keep older persons warm during the cold winter months.
The home's manager, Abraham Damon, said since the outbreak of COVID-19 in South Africa, all caregivers, including cleaners, professional nurses and nursing assistants, were trained on prevention and control measures, and undergo daily screening to protect older persons at the facility.
"We are doing everything possible to protect our older persons against this dreaded virus. We don't want to leave anything to chance. Our staff has been tested by the Department of Health and we are following strict health and hygiene protocols," Damon said.
Recognising the emotional toll brought about on older persons by the restrictions on visits, Damon said the centre has recently started allowing family visits under very strict conditions that comply with social distancing measures and hygiene guidelines.
The family visits are strictly monitored at all times.
Bogopane-Zulu said while it is important for older persons to keep in contact with their families for emotional support and wellbeing, their health and safety must remain a priority.
Some residential care facilities for older persons in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape have reported infections and deaths since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa.
Currently, people aged 60 and above account for 57% of all the nationally reported COVID-19 related deaths.
The Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) are currently conducting surveillance of COVID-19 cases at residential facilities for older persons throughout the country.
As part ongoing measures to ensure that all the department's facilities comply with prevention and control measures, the Deputy Minister will on Friday visits the Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa Centre of Excellence in Soshanguve.
The facility serves as a child and youth care centre for children in need of care and also provides services to children with disabilities.