Covid-19 cases in hotspot Nelson Mandela Bay approach 7,000

By Estelle Ellis 19 November 2020

Technicians from the National Health Laboratory Service were out in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday at the start of a mass testing campaign in the city, using a 20-minute rapid test, to identify patients who have the coronavirus. (Photo: Eastern Cape Department of Health)

The Eastern Cape Department of Health has launched an intensified testing and tracing programme in Nelson Mandela Bay after a huge outbreak of coronavirus infections in the metro. The metro’s number of active cases on Wednesday was close to 7,000 after an overnight increase of 903.

Reported active cases of Covid-19 in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro increased by 903 in the 24 hours before Wednesday 18 November. The increase came as the Eastern Cape MEC for Health, Sindiswa Gomba, launched a rapid 20-minute test that will strengthen efforts to track and trace patients with the coronavirus.

The mobile Covid-19 rapid antigen test was launched at Gqeberha Clinic, Walmer, in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health said the rapid antigen test can produce results within 20 minutes and can be used as a precursor to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test.

The department said mobile testing units with health workers who can perform the rapid test will move to hotspots around the metro as the department intensifies its tracing, tracking and testing of Covid-19 contacts.

By Wednesday the metro had 6,894 active Covid-19 cases and is regarded as South Africa’s Covid-19 hotspot.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health’s district manager for Nelson Mandela Bay, Darlene de Vos, said the number of new cases increased by 903 overnight, and that there were 160 health workers in isolation.

The Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, visited the metro on Tuesday to investigate the situation and said it was imperative that the outbreak be brought under control as swiftly as possible. 

Meanwhile, the control room of the city’s metro police department was closed on Wednesday for decontamination, and employees who worked there were placed in self-isolation.

The metro’s Water Department also closed down on Wednesday after employees at the water distribution depot tested positive.

“All employees in the distribution section of the depot will be quarantined and be back after the decontamination of the depot. All employees with symptoms will be referred for testing. A skeleton team will be put in place for continuity in dealing with leaks and burst pipes. Only major bursts and leaks will be attended to,” a notice from the city read.

This week during a presentation to Mkhize, the metro’s head of disaster management, Shane Brown, said that in October 50 municipal officials had tested positive for the virus, with 10 from the office of the mayor. The mayoral committee member for infrastructure and engineering and former mayor of the metro, Mongameli Bobani, died of Covid-19-related complications last week.

Brown said that in the first week of November, 15 municipal officials working in almost all of the municipality’s departments had tested positive for the virus.

Premier Oscar Mabuyane’s spokesperson, Mvusi Sicwetsha, said the Eastern Cape provincial government would embark on mass testing, screening, and tracking and tracing of people who are contacts of people infected with the coronavirus and will enforce the mandatory wearing of cloth masks in public places.

“The province has… resolved to enforce wearing of masks in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and in the Sarah Baartman district by making mask-wearing mandatory in public with police proactively insisting on wearing of masks,” he said. DM/MC 

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