NEWS & ANALYSIS

181 cases of Covid-19 in WCape – Alan Winde

Premier says staying home over next three weeks is only way to save lives

My message to the people of the Western Cape

26 March 2020 

As the country prepares to go into a 21-day national lockdown at midnight, I have an important message that I want to convey to all our residents across the Western Cape:

Staying home, inside your home, for the next three weeks, is the only way we are going to save lives.

I know what we are asking for is difficult, and it is scary, but we have overcome many, many challenges as a country. We can do it again, together.

But it needs each and every one of us to do our bit by staying in our homes.

If we all do this, we will be able to go back to our lives again and start to rebuild our economy. If we do not, and the virus continues to spread, many people will die, and the lock-down may be extended.

So now is the time. We can do this together. Let us be strong now for each other.

I also want to remind us all of our shared humanity: to be kind to one another. To show care and support in our own way. If we all are kind in this way, this time will pass quicker, and we will get out of this stronger as a country.

Be Kind. Stay Home. Save Lives.

Health situation report:

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in the province on 11 March. As at 9am, the province had confirmed 181 positive cases of COVID-19. The breakdown of confirmed laboratory cases is as follows:

City of Cape Town - 152

Overberg - 6

Cape Winelands - 10

Garden Route - 12

Unknown - 1

Three residents are currently admitted to hospital as a result of this virus.

I want to confirm that these are only confirmed laboratory cases. There are likely many more people who have the virus and who are not yet showing symptoms. That is why this lock-down is so important, and why staying home is our strongest weapon against it.

want to assure you that our tracing teams are working tirelessly to locate every possible contact of these 181 cases. We have strengthened their capacity to do so and this remains a key part of our health response.

The moment a contact is found and confirmed – information is passed to the relevant district contact response team. This team then handles the daily follow ups. Each team consists of up to a hundred people and they know exactly where each case is. This week, the team were able to go in, identify, test and isolate a contact within a two-hour period.

The province has also in the last week introduced GIS mapping of cases, as well as the use of a forecasting tool to ensure that we are able to pinpoint on a map exactly where each infection is situated.

We do not share this information with the public in the interests of patient privacy. We have seen how the stigma of this virus plays out, with numerous fake social media accounts of people being infected in certain communities. We again urge you to be kind, and to respect each other during this time.

It is also very important that if you develop symptoms  - such as a cough and fever – that you do not go to your clinic, hospital or doctor. You must first call the dedicated hotline on: 021 928 4102.

This hotline is currently fielding between 500 and 900 calls daily.

We have developed an online self-assessment tool, which allows people to determine their risk and whether they need to go for testing, which helps to filter the number of calls and the number of people visiting facilities. Over 28 000 people have used the tool since it was launched last week.

Preparedness:

Since my last update, my cabinet has been receiving daily briefings from the work streams.

Yesterday, our Cabinet approved a proposal by the Provincial Treasury to make funds available to fight the Coronavirus.

The Department of Health in the province has started the process of minimising the numbers of people using our health care facilities to reduce crowding and encourage social distancing. This includes limiting visitors to hospitals, and rescheduling elective surgeries and non-critical appointments.

This means we will be able to scale up capacity to respond.

For some of our 700 000 stable chronic patients, we have introduced home deliveries of their medications using our networks of community healthcare workers. We are also giving stable patients attending our facilities a two-month supply of medication to ensure they spend less time queueing in busy facilities.

We have had successful meetings with the private health care sector and general practioners and have ascertained the available resources in both private and provincial healthcare.

An internal Health Command response has been developed to ensure coordinated control in any scenario.

We have developed tented screening facilities to add alternative infrastructure. We are also working to develop acute facilities in existing wards for COVID patients and alternative isolation facilities, for patients who cannot do this at home.

We have allocated temporary step-down facilities, where patients who are mainly in need of oxygenation treatment, can go.

In line with World Health Organisation guidelines to increase testing, we have started to scale up our testing.

We expect to see our infection numbers increase as a result of this, however, we believe effective testing, combined with our contact tracing and the planned lockdown, are key in helping to flatten the infection curve and prevent our healthcare system from becoming over-burdened.

We have placed orders for R45 million in medical equipment including personal protective equipment (PPE), some of which will be arriving in the country in the first week of April.

A PPE guideline has been developed. Surgical masks should only be worn by anyone who is ill (flu, TB etc) and anyone who is working with patients.

A policy for waste and linen management for COVID-19 has also been developed by the Department of Health.

Lockdown:

As of 23.59 tonight, the entire country, except for those deemed to be an essential service, will be on lockdown.

This means that you will be required to stay in your home unless it is to go and buy groceries, go to the pharmacy or to seek medical attention.

Law enforcement will make sure this law is upheld. You must respect this lockdown, otherwise you may end up in jail. Worse still, you may cause the virus to spread, or it may be spread to you. Please – stay in your home.

Police have indicated that they will start to deploy from 10pm tonight.

Spaza shops that sell food will be allowed to continue operating. Retail stores will only be allowed to sell groceries and necessary items.

In line with the announcement made by Minister Fikile Mabalula, minibus taxis will be allowed to transport essential services workers and those making permitted movements. They will be allowed to operate from 05h00 until 9h00 and again from 16h00 until 20h00.

Funerals will be allowed provided fewer than 50 people are in attendance. There will be no night vigils.

To answer specific questions, we have developed an FAQ component on the lock-down our www.westerncape.gov.za/coronavirus portal. You can also submit questions that we will try and answer as soon as possible.

I again appeal to everyone to abide by the rules of the lockdown. We understand that this is an unprecedented time for many but if we do not all take every step possible now, lives will be lost. We have the potential to protect the most vulnerable in our society and save lives and we must all step up and take responsibility now.

#StopTheSpread:

A key component of our response has been communicating to all our residents the information they need to know to protect themselves and their families.

This has been difficult with fake news spreading quickly through direct forms of communication.

We have therefore ramped up our “Let’s stop the spread” campaign.

-       We have run radio ads on 29 radio stations in all three languages with a high frequency reaching a significantly high percentage of the Western Cape population

-       We have distributed 3,2 million SMSs, with a further 3 million distributed tomorrow.

-       Our Facebook targeting has reached 1,4 million people

-       The City of Cape Town, GCIS, Local Municipalities and the Western Cape Department of Health have distributed 1,3 million pamphlets in our province

-       15 500 posters have also been distributed

-       We ran print campaigns in community newspapers across the province

We know we need to do even more – and we ask all people to help us share through their social media networks approved official material which can be found on our website and downloaded.

The economy:

The Western Cape Government, together with its partners at Wesgro and the City of Cape Town, have been offering support to businesses.

We established the COVID-19 Content Centre for Business, a virtual centre made up of sector specialists developing reliable guidance to deal with queries and business concerns. This unit has, since its inception, received and handled 300 queries.

This team is now working with businesses to link them up to the assistance offered by the national government.

We have had sector specific meetings with tourism and hospitality, agriculture, and retail, textiles and manufacturing, and the services sector which includes Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

 The Western Cape Government will be revealing an economic response package soon to set out how government will assist the economy recover from the impact of this virus.

Social Services:  

Rendering services to victims of crime and violence is an essential service. The Western Cape Department of Social Development and civil society organisations will continue to provide these services through provision of shelters and psycho-social support.

Four shelters have been identified as Stage 1 shelters to admit at risk victims of crime and violence.

Only referrals from a social worker with safety risk assessment and SAPS referral will be accepted. After the initial 14 days, clients will be transferred from a Stage 1 shelter to a Stage 2 shelter with the assistance of SAPS.

Stage 2 shelters may only admit people referred by Stage 1 shelters who have completed their 14 day stay. The Department of Health will assist with medical screening and medical needs of clients.

All social workers of funded social service organisations are to be on stand-by to provide psycho-social support services to victims of crime and violence. Psycho-social support at Thuthuzela Care Centres will continue.

The Department of Social Development is currently feeding 4920 beneficiaries at 72 sites across the province on a daily basis.

Let’s stop this spread together:

This is one of the most challenging moments our country has faced. But we all know what we are capable of when we work together. What we all need to do now is abide by the law -and to stay in our homes.  If we do this, we can get through this, and many lives can be saved.

In conclusion, I want to support President Ramaphosa’s call on the nation to spend two minutes in prayer, reflection or silent meditation between 18h00 and 18h30 tonight. I will be doing so with my family.

I will be specifically thinking of all our essential service staff, law enforcement personal, nurses, doctors and other front-line staff who are going out, so we can stay home. They are our heroes. 

I will also be thinking of each of you, and wishing you the strength I know you are  capable of to get through this difficult time for our province and country.

Now is the time. Be Kind. Stay Home. Save Lives. And Let’s stop the spread.

Issued by Bianca Capazorio, Spokesperson for Premier Alan Winde, 26 March 2020