Gauteng Command Council gives Covid-19 update
Gauteng Premier David Makhura led a media briefing update from the Gauteng Command Council on Thursday 16 April. He started off by acknowledging that Gauteng remained the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, having reached 782 positive cases with three people dead.
Mkahura said there were now 8,005 community health workers who had been trained out of the available 9,000, and 607 healthcare professionals working with them to trace contacts and conduct screenings.
A total of 26,842 people had been screened, 440 of whom displayed symptoms and were referred for testing. Screening was launched in Alexandra on 31 March where 1,390 were tested, and in Setshwetla 201 were tested. Makhura said only one person of those tested was positive and had been quarantined. However, there would continue to be medical surveillance in the area.
Screening has been rolled out to all five districts of Gauteng: Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Sedibeng and West Rand. The screening is not indiscriminate and areas are mapped according to high-density contacts, whether suburbs, informal settlements or townships.
Makhura said that from now on a breakdown of these five districts will be announced daily as numbers are confirmed.
He said that Johannesburg is the epicentre of the Gauteng Covid-19 infections with 558 cases, followed by Ekurhuleni (161 cases), Tshwane (104 cases), West Rand (35 cases) and Sedibeng (eight cases). There are 64 “unallocated” cases, meaning there is no certainty as to district allocation. Ninety percent of contacts have been identified and he said they would continue to increase capacity for tracing.
He urged people to use the Mpilo app to self-screen, the results of which would then be sent through to tracing teams.
The premier said that Gauteng’s procured personal protective equipment (PPE) is adequate and prioritised for healthcare and other essential workers. Gauteng is looking at existing facilities to identify beds for Covid-19 patients, including working with the private sector and clearing certain sections of hospitals by transferring patients.
Makhura thanked NGOs and businesses who have been working as partners in supplying people with food. He said that to date Gauteng had reached 15,000 households that are food insecure; this number excludes the homeless. He said the initiative would be ramped up in the coming weeks and would be led by Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Johannesburg is the epicentre of the Gauteng Covid-19 infections with 440 cases, followed by Ekurhuleni (111 cases), Tshwane (90 cases), West Rand (12 cases) and Sedibeng (six cases). There are 113 “unallocated” cases
The premier spoke of the partnerships that had been set up with broadcasters to ensure that learning continued. He said he was perturbed by the targeting of schools – 22 schools had experienced break-ins, including four that were burnt down.
Makhura said they were doing an economic assessment of the impact of Covid-19 in Gauteng and would be working with the national government to assist businesses in need, particularly small businesses in townships.
“Through community action groups we want people to contribute creatively, health volunteers at the community level. We believe together we can win the battle against Covid-19. We wish to thank all workers involved in essential services.”
He said law enforcement was continuing to monitor and ensure compliance with the lockdown.
“So far, 10,126 suspects have been arrested and 9,624 cases opened — 7,481 are awaiting to appear in court,” Makhura said.
Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku said that of the recorded Covid-19 cases in Gauteng, more than half were now in recovery.
On the issue of masks, Masuku said they are “meant to address the issue of social distancing which is a big issue in townships and informal settlements”. He also warned against people announcing infections or deaths without first verifying with authorities.
He said the Alexandra person identified as having contracted the virus was still being monitored. The eight people he had been in contact with have been cleared of contracting the virus.
After the media briefing, Makhura attended the launch of Gauteng Together’s Community Action Networks (CAN) hosted by the executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Neeshan Balton. The initiative was started by the Angel Network, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and Conekt and is made up of civil society organisations, individuals and volunteers.
The aim of CAN is to “mobilise community action networks (CANs) across the province to identify and address local needs due to the social impact of the Covid19 pandemic”.
Its main focus will be on food insecurity, hunger and other social challenges impacting negatively on the lives of people due to the lockdown.
“It may not have the capacity to meet everyone’s needs as it kicks off but will go a long way in ensuring sustained community efforts to mitigate the food crisis,” said Balton.
Driscilla Naidoo, a member of the Gauteng Together team, said that anyone can start a CAN, noting that each community has different needs and would have to shape their network according to those needs.
She said, “Gender-based violence and the abuse of children should also be given serious attention during the lockdown; that food price inflation and rights abuses are monitored, and that anything that could put the community at increased risk of spreading the coronavirus is identified and addressed.”
Makhura, in support of the platform, said that government had learnt from the Treatment Action Campaign-led HIV/AIDS campaign, that “when people have knowledge they are able to take action where government is unable to”.
“I want to enlist myself in this initiative, I want to be a participant. Because we must have a social movement behind this. We have been struggling in how we sustain community initiatives. I’m quite excited that it’s taking off. We want to mobilise to deal with how the country should respond at local level… we want to find new instruments to ensure the most vulnerable of our population are not hardest hit by this.”
Balton said that “at its core, the CAN initiative is about developing a heightened sense of social solidarity during a very difficult time, not only here in South Africa, but globally as well”. DM/MC