Poor contact tracing a threat to people of NC
4 May 2020
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Northern Cape is calling on National Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, to urgently visit the Northern Cape amidst deepening concern about the provincial health department’s unpreparedness to manage the Coronavirus pandemic.
This comes following a media report that exposes the absence of contact tracing in Kimberley.
According to a media report that was aired on national television this morning, the family of a 31-year old Roodepan resident, who tested positive for Covid-19 last week, has yet to be tested for the virus.
While the 31-year old has apparently been hospitalized, the family of eight, including his parents who are both in their sixties and are at further increased risk given that they reportedly suffer from hypertension, diabetes and heart problems, have not been contacted by the Health Department or even been advised on isolating.
The above is very worrying indeed.
Not only has the Northern Cape gotten off to a dismally slow start with regards to testing, of which tests have yet to reach the 1500 milepost, but now it also appears that direct contacts of positive patients are being neglected, posing a risk to their own health, as well as to that of the greater community.
The DA already called for contact tracing teams to be put in place during our debate on the State of the Province Address at the beginning of March this year, before South Africa even reported its first case of Coronavirus. This was after it emerged in the latest data presented by the provincial health department, indicating that emergency outbreak response teams were not active in the province and that environmental officers were assisting with Communicable Disease Control activities.
We have since heard of hundreds of tracers being appointed to trace contacts of Coronavirus positive cases but we fail to see the impact hereof.
Surely, when fighting a pandemic, the health department should waste no time in tracing contacts, especially those as easily traceable as direct family members residing in the same house as the affected patient? If the health department cannot trace and manage these most obvious cases, what then about the contacts who are less easy to trace?
The current situation cannot be allowed to continue without inviting the Coronavirus to spread rapidly and uncontrollably in the Northern Cape, overwhelming the already under-resourced and ill-equipped state health services in the province.
We therefor appeal to Dr Mkhize to visit the Northern Cape. We suspect that what he will find here will be similar to what he found in the Eastern Cape, in the form of an ill-prepared provincial government response to Covid-19.
Coronavirus won’t wait until we are ready to deal with it, it is an opportunistic disease and must be managed now, with a zero-tolerance approach towards its further spread.
Issued by Andrew Louw, DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader, 4 May 2020