Mpumalanga's COVID-19 response plan, which seeks to target cases at a ward level and drive awareness, has received approval from President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The President visited the province on Friday to assess its state of readiness for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accompanied by Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize; Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu; Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane, the President also inspected the province's COVID-19 facilities.
"I'm particularly pleased that your response strategy has identified key priority areas, including managing the health crisis itself. It is pleasing to know that in your priority areas, you have decided to protect vulnerable people in our communities.
"Your response strategy also focuses on behavioural change. One of the best weapons we have against Coronavirus is to change our behaviour, having accepted that we have to live with this virus," he said.
The province's response plan takes into consideration Mpumalanga's relatively low COVID-19 cases, which sit at 1 478 cases, with seven deaths, as of Thursday. The plan aims to zone in on potential hotspots and build community awareness of the virus.
Presenting the Provincial Command Council's response strategy to the President, Provincial Advisory Committee member, Dr Lesego Mawela, said Emalahleni, Govan Mbeki, Steve Tshwete and the City of Mbombela municipalities are where the province's COVID-19 cases are located.
"We have, however, noted that appreciating these numbers at a municipal level will not help us much in terms of our response. We have now moved on to look at where these cases are from at a ward level, so that we do not go into a municipality and do a series of interventions broadly, but we will provide multiple, combined and targeted interventions in specific wards," said Mawela.
As the country braces for a surge in infections, Mawela said the province has devised a community based approach in response to the virus.
"The first goal is to contain and limit the spread of Coronavirus, and to address critical socio-economic and health system issues caused by the pandemic," he said.
The provincial plan also includes setting up a provincial nerve centre, tracking COVID-19 at a ward level and behavioural change campaigns in wards that are hardest hit.
Age groups most at risk
Contrary to the COVID-19 trends, which largely affect the older population, Mpumalanga reported that COVID-19 continues to affect young people, with cases peaking in the 30-39 age group.
"We have noted that the age group of interest is 20 - 49 years... Most of the province's cases are males, who represent 53% of all cases," said Mawela.
Mpumalanga screens 4.5 million people for COVID
In terms of screening, Mpumalanga has screened 4.5 million people, with the majority of screening emanating from communities, while others took place in the public health system. Other screenings happened through mobile services and digital applications.
A total of 6 101 contacts have been traced, 2 346 of which are still actively being monitored; 3 755 have been discharged and are regarded as not being infected.
To date, Mpumalanga has conducted 43 459 tests, 7 988 of which were conducted in the public 35 073 are from the private sector.
The province has, however, a backlog of 848 pending results.
"It is important to note that we used to have a higher number, which at some point was reduced to just below 250 and now we are seeing the backlog coming back. It is a systems problem that we need to look at," said Mawela.
Case management and Isolation
In terms of case management, 726 of the province's 1 478 cases are under isolation. The majority of these cases are under self-isolation.
"We have 39 patients admitted in the general ward, seven patients in high care and four in ICU," said Mawela.
The majority of the seven deaths are from young people, with only two deaths being regarded as the targeted high-risk population, which has been the trend globally and domestically.
"It's quite important for us as a province to see how best we reach our young people to prevent COVID-19 infections and to screen them for comorbidities," said Mawela.
Healthcare workers infected
To date, the province has 56 healthcare workers with COVID-19. Of the 56 cases, 36 are still active and 18 have recovered.
COVID-19 cases at Mpumalanga schools
A total of 25 schools in the province have reported cases of COVID-19. The province has 23 teachers, nine learners and six support staff infected by Coronavirus.