South Africa: COVID-19 - Eastern Cape Rethinks Game Plan

Established in a City of Cape Town-owned community sports centre, the Khayelitsha Field Hospital will function as an extension of the adjacent Khayelitsha District Hospital, essentially expanding its capacity to treat moderate to severe COVID-19 cases.

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane says they are reaching a point where tough decisions will have to be made regarding funerals, in order to try to control the spread of Coronavirus.

"[We're at a point] where we're no longer talking about 50 [mourners] attending, but where people will be buried by their children or siblings -- we're reaching that point," the Premier said on Tuesday.

Mabuyane said they have been receiving complaints from funeral parlours about feeling overwhelmed about the situation that the province is facing.

As of Monday, the province remained the third worst hit province, with 38 081 COVID-19 cases and the second highest provincial death toll, with 528 deceased.

"We're now really facing the eye of the storm. It's no longer about the issue of the peak. We're now there in the middle of a crisis," the Premier said.

Mabuyane said a risk-adjusted, differentiated approach must be implemented to rescue the province. Together with this, primary health education and awareness campaigns will have to be amplified in efforts to slow the spread of the disease.

"We know that the Eastern Cape is the most vulnerable province. We know the health profile of our people, how risky the situation is. That's why we believe in preventative measures.

"There are still other people who believe there's no COVID-19 and those who using their Constitutional Rights to say, 'I can't be isolated or quarantined'."

He said all their life-saving sites have never been full to capacity and still have extra beds.

"They've been running below 50% and that's why we're asking people to voluntarily come forward and isolate themselves."

Meanwhile, those isolating at home should take full responsibility, the Premier pleaded.

"You can't be loitering when your doctor has condemned you to be at home for that particular period and if [you] don't, [you're] engaging in culpable homicide unintentionally."

The Premier has asked the people to work together with government to fight the pandemic.

"It's about being patriotic; we have a country and a future to protect."

He believes that it is not going to be easy to introduce lower alert levels as government tries to save lives, while preserving people's livelihood.

Mabuyane said they have many cases of people who die in their homes before they reach the hospital, especially in rural areas.

"We are saying people must be tested, even if it's posthumous, to ensure we protect those who are left behind."

The Eastern Cape is currently recording the second highest daily infections after Gauteng, which records about 3 000 day-to-day.

"This shows that this infection is galloping," Mabuyane said, adding that people should stay at home to avoid spreading the disease.

Corruption will not be tolerated

Meanwhile, the province is dealing with alleged corruption after a company claimed R4.8 million from the OR Tambo District Municipality in the so-called door-to-door COVID-19 campaign.

According to reports, the company claimed its employees had spoken to 6 400 people, while some residents said no one visited their homes.

"We were not surprised at all when it happened because we knew there would be chance takers who'd use this pandemic to get rich quick," the Premier said.

He has now written to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking for the Special Investigating Unit to intervene, while the Departments of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and Treasury are busy with the preliminary investigations.

"We've never heard about door-to-door campaigns where people are paid."

He has applauded the whistleblowers for lifting the lid on this matter.

Grade R learners to go back in August

The Eastern Cape announced over the weekend that Grades 3, 6 and 11 will now reopen on 20 July due to the spike in the number of COVID-19 infections.

Mabuyane said Grade R learners will only return to the classroom on 17 August, as they do not want to endanger lives.

"We're at high risk in the Eastern Cape because that's where you get all these grandchildren staying with their grandparents. If these young people are contracting this virus at school, it will be more dangerous for their grandparents at home, especially in the rural areas."

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