South Africa: Premier Alan Winde On His Weekly Digital Press Conference On Covid-19

press release

Statement by Premier Alan Winde at his weekly digital press conference

Our December Challenge: Let's roll-back this resurgence by wearing a mask, avoiding crowded places and confined spaces every day this month

Last week Thursday, I announced that the Garden Route and to a lesser extent, the Cape Metro, were experiencing an established Covid-19 resurgence.

This means that the virus is starting to spread within communities again at a faster rate and more people are being hospitalised as a result.

Since I last spoke to you, the number of active cases in the Western Cape has increased from 7793 on 26 November to 10 442 on 2 December.

The number of people being admitted into hospital, as a result, has also continued to increase from 1020 on 26 November to 1253 on 2 December.

There are now 209 people in ICU or high care, which means they are receiving critical healthcare either through high-flow oxygen or on ventilators.

Covid-19 infection in high-risk groups is still very serious and can result in death

We also now sadly expect the number of deaths to increase, as was experienced at this point in the 'first wave'.

We have already started seeing the first indications of this, with the number of deaths in the province increasing from 87 (7 to 14 days ago) to 152 this past seven days.

We must all remember that every person in one of our ICU beds right now, fighting for their life, is someone's mother or father, husband or wife, grandmother or grandfather. It could be you or someone you love.

Every life must matter because it is the most precious thing in the world. We therefore must treat this resurgence with the seriousness it deserves.

Because if it gains momentum, and becomes an uncontrollable, unmanageable 'second wave', our hospitals could be overwhelmed, and many more people will die than would otherwise be the case.

We all have a responsibility to prevent this from happening.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. We need one big push from the people of the Western Cape, so we finish 2020 strong

The Western Cape does not support further Lockdowns of any form. Indeed, we have consistently fought for the economy to open up more.

Lockdowns are blunt instruments that have disastrous consequences and should be avoided at all costs.

That is why our plan is based on targeted, local, evidenced-based interventions to get the pandemic under control.

And why ultimately you, the people of the Western Cape, are the most important intervention we have.

Over the next month, we need every person in the province to dig deep and to give one big push, by returning to the behavioural changes that we have all learnt this year.

If over the next 30 days we can get this right, we can keep our economy open, and ensure that there are enough hospital beds for each person who needs one, when they need one, regardless of their illness.

We can also get our province even closer to the rollout of a vaccine in 2021, which is looking increasingly promising.

There is a bright light at the end of this tunnel, and we are approaching the end of this horrible story. We must finish 2020 strong for the sake of our economy, our healthcare system and for the lives and livelihoods we need to save.

The Western Cape's guiding principles underpinned by saving both lives and livelihoods

There are five key principles which have guided our decisions, and which we have consistently followed to date.

Firstly, that every life matters and that we must do everything we can to save the life of every person who gets seriously ill with Covid-19, as with every other illness. This is the most fundamental human right and it is non-negotiable.

Secondly, in doing so, we must protect our healthcare system and prevent it from being overwhelmed. Every person must be able to get the healthcare they need when they need it, regardless of whether they have Covid-19 or not.

Thirdly, that a growing economy that creates jobs and lifts people out of poverty also saves lives.

And interventions that undermine or damage the economy, increase unemployment and give rise to a humanitarian crisis, must be avoided at all costs because it will also cost lives.

Fourthly, that South Africa needs scientific, evidence-based and common-sense interventions that are effective and measurable. Regrettably, the National Government did not always get this right during the 'first wave'.

Lastly, and perhaps most critical to the current scenario, is that human beings have agency and are capable of being partners in our effort in slowing the spread. No person should be viewed as a ward of the state, and if we work together to flatten the curve, we will undoubtedly be more successful.

To put it simply, given the rapid growth of cases being experienced in the Western Cape, doing nothing and just letting the virus spread at its current pace is not an option.

We have to intervene in innovative ways that slows the spread, protects those at highest risk and ensures that our health system has the capacity to provide care to everyone who needs it.

And in doing so, we must do everything possible to keep the economy open and protect jobs, so that we do not allow the second pandemic of unemployment, hunger and inequality to once again gain momentum and cost lives too.

The Western Cape Government's three-pronged-approach to roll-back the Covid-19 resurgence in the Western Cape

The Western Cape Government has adopted a three-pronged approach to containing the Covid-19 resurgence.

A continuation of our world-class health response to ensure that every person gets care when they need it, with innovative interventions to save lives.

Behaviour change to prevent new infections, by working with individuals, communities and businesses to adopt protective measures. And,

Increased enforcement of existing level 1 regulations that will ensure the compliance needed by all stakeholders to contain the virus.

Together these three pillars are the best way to roll-back the resurgence, while keeping our economy as open as possible. This is how we intend to save both lives and livelihoods.

Our health response will include:

Increased surveillance of Covid-19 outbreaks, through testing of cases in hotspot areas, contact-tracing, daily huddles to understand reasons for spread, and expert analysis of data and trends. Our Surveillance Strategy requires quick intervention to fight new outbreaks when they occur.

The scaling up our health platform's capacity to manage the increased burden on our hospitals, with key trigger points for the addition of new intermediate, acute and critical care capacity so that we always have enough beds available.

Ensuring a core level of essential services in the health system, and starting preparations for a careful, planned reduction in comprehensive health services in hotspots to ensure adequate capacity for a potential surge of cases.

Obtaining sufficient Personal Protective Equipment to protect all frontline staff at all times and ensuring the mental wellbeing of our healthcare workers.

Using technology to track Covid-19 infections in high-risk individuals, such as those with Diabetics, to reduce the number of deaths.

Our behaviour change response includes:

The launch of a festive season Covid-19 safety campaign using a variety of media channels, to encourage the adherence to the 3Cs and golden rules.

The distribution of community level trends of Covid-19 infections to encourage personal responsibility in different geographic areas.

The formulation of detailed guidelines on gatherings that can assist residents in making safer choices over the next month.

Our all-of-government enforcement response includes:

Coordination of enforcement activities through the Joint Operations Centre, and the creation of a joint operations grid.

The launch of a single complaints line for all Covid-19 related complaints, with a direct link through to the JOC.

A continuation of our comprehensive hotspot strategy, with reports from hotspot leads to cabinet weekly.

Requesting additional policing resources from SAPS to assist with compliance.

The organisation of regular engagements with Business, Labour, Faith Based Organisations and Civil Society to ensure Covid-19 compliance and strong cooperation during the festive season.

In line with this three-pronged approach, our government departments will work together to prevent new infections of Covid-19.

Our Department of Transport and Public Works (T&PW) will, through its festive season road safety campaign, assist with awareness and enforcement of Covid-19 regulations, especially for long distance transport during December.

The Western Cape has created a dedicated USSD code to report non-compliance on public transport, and a campaign to boost awareness of this number during the month of December will take place.

T&PW will also continue to make available safe and comfortable Quarantine and Isolation facilities for those residents that are unable to safely isolate at home.

Our Department of Social Development is working closely with both funded and unfunded old age homes around introducing stricter protocols so that these residents have increased protection.

The WCED already has extensive Covid-19 protocols in place for schools across the province, including for the examinations taking place right now, and these protocols will continue to be strictly adhered to. Schools were asked this week to review their safety measures and ensure that they are in line with the Guidelines issued to them.

The WCED has also asked principals to communicate to staff and learners the consequences of irresponsible and unnecessary behaviour in the context of Covid-19 and to encourage them to avoid crowds and non-essential gatherings.

The WCED will further communicate with schools regarding safe and responsible behaviour during the holiday period. We are very aware that many Grade 12 learners understandably wish to celebrate the end of their examinations. This must be done in a responsible manner to ensure their safety.

Our Department of Agriculture will work with stakeholders in the agricultural economy to ensure that Covid-19 protocols are adhered to on farms and in rural communities and will undertake oversight visits to oversee compliance.

Our Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT) has a dedicated complaints line for businesses that are not adhering to protocols, and they will work with the private sector to ensure safety of consumers and employees. There has already been a noticeable increase in the number of complaints received, and a more collaborative approach is being implemented across government and industry to respond to the increased workload.

DEDAT will also undertake regular engagements with sectors of the economy where risk of spread is highest to ensure compliance with protocols, as was done with the retail sector ahead of Black Friday. They have already had extensive engagements with the tourism industry.

Our Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport will work together with the museums, libraries, sporting federations and cultural organisations under its jurisdiction, to ensure Covid-19 protocols are maintained and smart measures to slow the spread at facilities are introduced.

The Western Cape Liquor Authority, of which the Department of Community Safety is the main custodian, will continue enforcement investigations in areas including Covid-19 hotspots and work with SAPS to take appropriate action against establishments breaking the law.

The Department of Community Safety is working with its Neighbourhood Watches and Chrysalis Academy graduates, who are deployed within Covid-19 hotspots to promote positive behavioural change at places of gathering including malls and transport interchanges to ensure residents continue to wash and sanitise their hands and wear masks.

The Department has also received R20 million towards the implementation of the safety ambassador programme. The new recruits will not only operate in schools and municipalities, they will also work in their communities. As we are experiencing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, safety ambassadors will further assist their communities in complying with COVID-19 safety protocols and regulations.

All of these interventions will be done in line with our zero-tolerance approach to corruption, and our Provincial Treasury will continue to publish monthly Procurement Disclosure Reports so every cent can be accounted for.

Level 1 regulations need to be enforced

There have been extensive media reports in the last 24 hours about potential plans by the National Government to re-introduce alcohol restrictions and move the curfew earlier.

The Western Cape Government would not be in support of such interventions. They would be a double blow to our struggling hospitality sector, which employs tens of thousands of people in this province.

Instead, we need to work with these establishments to ensure compliance and where it doesn't happen ensure there is proper enforcement with real consequences.

I do, however, believe that the current requirement allowing 250 people to gather indoors is very high given that we know that Covid-19 spreads easier in crowded and closed spaces with poor ventilation. Any limitation on the number of people who can gather in an indoor space must be based on thorough scientific evidence and advice to ensure it will be impactful.

As mentioned above, the Western Cape believes in localised, targeted approaches to outbreaks and that adopting province or country wide measures for a problem in one geographic would have many negative consequences for South Africa's recovery.

Importantly, the Western Cape Government is also of the firm view that the imposition of restrictions on any geographic area of the province by National Government cannot happen without first undertaking thorough consultation on the exact measures that are to be introduced.

Lastly, the Western Cape will continue to welcome tourists to our province, where you can get that 'far away feeling' right here in South Africa. We however ask that visitors be part of the solution, and work with us to follow the rules that will keep themselves and others safe, as you would do anywhere else in South Africa and the world right now. You need to organise your holiday differently, by avoiding crowded places, confined spaces and unnecessary gatherings. Fortunately, we are blessed with an abundance of open spaces where there is plenty of fresh air to enjoy. We will also launch a dedicated tourism safety campaign to create awareness of the safety precautions required of visitors to our province.

The power is in your hands and on your face. Take action now, wear your mask, avoid the 3Cs and help save lives and livelihoods

The next 30 days are going to be critical for the Western Cape and the containment of our resurgence. I know we are all very tired, and we all want this chapter in our lives to end. I want it to end too.

There is a bright light at the end of the tunnel and 2021 is going to be a better year. So, we really need to finish 2020 strong, with our healthcare system and our economy working.

We simply can't do this without your help.

So please remember the power is in your hands, and indeed, in the masks that you wear on your face, covering your mouth and nose.

We must also 'protect our airspace' as the as the virus spreads in droplets which travel in the air. We can do this by avoiding the 3Cs of crowded places, confined spaces and close contact.

Let's rise to the December Challenge.

Let's roll-back this resurgence and flatten the curve this month.

And let's keep the Western Cape moving forward.

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