During a digital press briefing held on 18 March, Dr Keith Cloete, the new head of the Western Cape Department of Health, announced that the local and provincial health departments would be collaborating with the private health sector to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cloete, who addressed the media and the public alongside Premier Alan Winde and Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo, said the departments held a “productive meeting” on Monday with six private hospital groups.
Cloete did not divulge which hospital groups had jumped onboard. However, Daily Maverick previously reported that two of the country’s biggest healthcare companies – Netcare and Mediclinic – had indicated their readiness to collaborate with national and provincial departments.
The elderly and the immuno-compromised are of greatest concern, said Cloete, who advised that these groups get their annual influenza vaccinations to reduce their vulnerability if they do come into contact with someone who’s tested positive.
“We are getting our own stock, but we are also encouraging via private facilities that everyone should make sure that they immunise against the annual flu. It doesn’t protect you against Covid-19, but it helps with your immunity and helps that you are not vulnerable if you should come into contact with somebody with Covid-19.”
Other health sector measures in place include the establishment of a provincial hotline, the number for which is 021 928-4102. Extra capacity is also being added to contact tracing.
According to Cloete, contact tracing and follow-up teams are being placed in every community in preparation for increased local transmission of the virus, especially in poorer areas.
“As we speak, we are developing the capacity to be able to provide isolation facilities in those communities if we so require, and secondly, we are developing community messaging that we will, in the next two or three days, be taking into communities via our community policing forums, via our neighbourhood watches and importantly by community health workers and local health workers living in those areas.”
Cloete said other testing and isolation facilities, like Tygerberg, were being established across the province.
There will also be cutbacks on non-essential medical treatments such as elective surgery to free up capacity for Covid-19 patients.
The provincial government is also trying to gather essential resources across the private and public sector such as oxygen masks and ventilators.
Local transmission via public transport has also been a cause for great concern, with buses and mini-bus taxis being notoriously crowded and often unhygienic spaces.
Winde said that all Golden Arrow buses will be sprayed with disinfectant every 24 hours and buses will be cleaned inside, each time they move through the bus terminus. Bus drivers will be given masks and gloves, as they often handle cash.
MyCiTi buses will be fumigated and cleaned more frequently, particularly after the morning and afternoon peak-hour periods. MyCiTi staff will also try to limit the number of standing passengers on buses.
In a media release sent out by the City of Cape Town on 17 March, commuters were advised to avoid full or overcrowded buses and minibus taxis, as well as travel during off-peak hours. The City also said it was looking into getting hand sanitisers for commuters at MyCiTi bus stops.
Winde also encouraged businesses to switch to remote work where possible. Those who have frontline staff that cannot work out-of-office, need to be adequately protected.
The provincial government alongside Wesgro, the City of Cape Town and other partners has established a Covid-19 Centre for Business which will provide virtual advice and support to businesses regarding: containment, how businesses can adapt to and survive social distancing and how business can be revived once the pandemic is over.
Scant mention was made of how to mitigate transmission from tourists coming into the country, despite the majority of cases coming from international travellers. Winde largely encouraged social distancing in establishments like hotels and ramping up hygiene practices.
Recently, a number of wine farms in the Cape Winelands closed their doors after a Dutch tourist who had visited over 30 wine farms tested positive for Covid-19.
The premier also urged people to refrain from panic buying as retailers had enough stock to get through the crisis.
“We are urging people to only buy what they need and not to stockpile as this only serves to deprive our most vulnerable residents. We have to act with calm and consideration for others at times like these. The retailers have confirmed that there will be no stock shortages.” DM
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