Maverick Citizen

CORONAVIRUS DAILY DIGEST #91

Eastern Cape changes strategy, KwaZulu-Natal mum on overpriced PPE for schools and SA starts making its own ventilators

Eastern Cape changes strategy, KwaZulu-Natal mum on overpriced PPE for schools and SA starts making its own ventilators
A pair of military veterans stand in the winter cold after receiving blankets from the NGO Gift of the Givers in Willowmore, Eastern Cape, on 12 June 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

On Tuesday, 7 July, the Eastern Cape announced its new strategy to rein in its Covid-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department is yet to release a report into the maximum prices it paid for personal protective equipment before the reopening of schools. The production of three models of non-invasive ventilators has started in South Africa.

Scroll through the gallery below to view the latest Covid-19 numbers available on 7 July 2020 at the district level. All maps are sourced from provincial health departments, however, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Free State did not provide an update by the time of publishing:

The Eastern Cape will establish community-based joint operations centres, at the ward level, to manage outbreaks of Covid-19. This is one of the new strategies announced by Premier Oscar Mabuyane as the province tries to rein in its outbreak of Covid-19.

The focus will now be on the 87 wards in the two metros, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City. The province has observed “a drastic increase in Covid-19 cases along urban corridors in all directions”, and is concerned that there is “prominent potential” of superclusters forming, which will impact rural areas. He hoped that the new ward-based plan will also address the massive spike in crime.

More beds and field hospitals will be established by converting museums, school hostels, nursing colleges and training centres to provide 2,080 extra beds and 218 high care beds for patients needing oxygen. As Estelle Ellis reports, the province wants more Covid-19 patients to be isolated in state facilities.

The KwaZulu-Natal government remains mum on the maximum prices it paid for personal protective equipment (PPE) before the reopening of schools. It has been a month since the department promised Daily Maverick a report that would exonerate the department of allegations that it overpaid for the equipment. 

The report was promised, and commented on, at a press briefing on 7 June 2020. This was two days after Daily Maverick wrote an article about how the department had allegedly paid top prices to just a handful of select suppliers, despite better-priced items being available on the open market.

As Des Erasmus writes, the MEC for education, Kwazi Mshengu and the head of department, Frank Nzama are ignoring communications. Premier Sihle Zikalala is also not responding. The EFF in the province says it does not exist and the Inkatha Freedom Party said it had not seen the report. The DA says the Special Investigations Unit has taken an interest in the matter. They are all awaiting responses to their own queries on the matter.

A 59-year-old school principal from Limpopo, who lives with type 2 diabetes and hypertension, is yet to hear whether or not he can work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is despite applying to the provincial department of education to do so on 12 June 2020. As Ayanda Mthethwa writes, he has been living and working in fear for his life. This experience is not unique. The department has received 948 applications so far and granted 798 concessions. 

Media24, one of South Africa’s biggest publishing companies, has announced that it is considering taking some print publications online only and closing five magazines and two newspapers. This restructure will cut 660 jobs – more than 20% of its total staff in the magazine and newspaper publishing division. As Ray Mahlaka writes, the company says the Covid-19 pandemic has wrought “unrecoverable” damage on the circulation figures and advertising revenue of its print media operations. 

Meanwhile, production has started on three locally-made models of non-invasive respiratory ventilators. The manufacturers hope to make 1,00o in the first two weeks and thereafter, 1,000 per week. As Karin Schimke writes, the engineers are hopeful that in the long run, the manufacturing of ventilators can be developed into a sustainable industry in South Africa.

Dis-Chem has been found guilty of price gouging by inflating the prices of three types of surgical face masks in March 2020, according to the Competition Tribunal. The pharmacy chain has been fined R1.2-million after the tribunal said the price increases are “utterly unreasonable and reprehensible”. Dis-Chem had argued that it had no choice, but to increase prices because of price increases by suppliers and disruptions in supply. It has announced it will appeal the tribunal’s decision. DM

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