Statement on the Northern Cape Provincial Comand Council

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The Northern Cape Provincial Command Council, led by the Premier, Dr Zamani Saul met for its first meeting of the year this past Friday to receive an update on the Covid-19 response in the Province as well as assess compliance with the Level 3 lockdown regulations. As a Province we are in the second wave of the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic and strict adherence to all safety and health protocols becomes critical.

It was noted that since the start of this year, there has been a significant improvement in Covid-19 testing. As of January this year, a total of 15 122 tests have been conducted in the Province, compared to the last 14-days of December 2020, where 7 056 tests were conducted. There were 3 722 new Covid-19 positive cases reported for the period 01 – 14 January 2021, translating into a positivity rate of 25% in a 14-day period. A seven-day comparative analysis depicts an increase of 44% in newly detected cases: 01 – 07 January 2021 compared to 08 – 14 January 2021. The district with the highest 7-day increase is John Taolo Gaetsewe (83%) followed by Frances Baard at 77%. Namakwa has seen record increases but is starting to show a steady decline in the percentage increase.

The Province notes that the number of infected staff increased by 35 new infections which translates into a 2.5% increase compared to the previous report on 8th January 2021. As at 13th Jan 2021, a cumulative total of 1 444 staff were reported to have ever been infected with Covid-19. Both Namakwa and Pixley ka Seme Districts had the highest staff in self-isolation with 26 and 26 respectively and the only districts that reported one or more of their staff hospitalized.

The sustained increases in cases are mainly influenced by:

  • Festive season heightened activities e.g. parties, shopping
  • Travelers especially in Namakwa area
  • Non-compliance to Covid-19 Regulations by some businesses, community members
  • Opened beaches in the Namakwa areas attracting more tourists

As at yesterday, the Province had a total of 29 558 cases, with a total recovery of 24 523 cases with a recovery rate of 83% and 4 537 active cases. Unfortunately 6 new cases have been reported of people that have succumbed to the virus and the Premier sends his heartfelt condolences on behalf of the Province to the families of the bereaved. Characteristics of January Covid-19 related deaths shows similar prominent co-morbidities (i.e. diabetes & hypertension). However, Females constitute more compared than males which is different compared to the general observation in previous months. With these new deaths the Province’s total cumulative deaths due to Covid-19 complications, now stands at 496. 

It was noted that in the first four days of the week (11 – 14 Jan 2021), just over 1000 new cases have already being reported with a daily average of 259. The projected new cases by the end of last week will be close or slightly higher than 1 700.

As far as hospitalization of patients admitted due to Covid-19 complications is concerned; there has been a slight decrease, with 169 total admissions compared to 178 compared to 10 Jan 2021. A sharp increase in ICU admissions with 35 while 24 of them are ventilated is also noted.

The Province notes that a total number of 1 444 Health Care workers have tested positive so far, of which 1 344 have recovered but unfortunately 16 have lost their lives to the pandemic. Of equal concern is the number of positive cases amongst SAPS officials with a cumulative total of 992 cases and a total recovery of 890 cases with and sadly a total number of 15 deaths at this stage. We reserve our sincerest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones and thank them for being at the frontline of the fight against Covid-19. These frontline members lost their lives whilst fighting an invisible enemy and deserve our respect and we regret the loss of life.

There are five areas identified as potential hotspots in the Province, in the four weeks period altogether they have reported a total of 2 036, accounting for 52% of total cases reported in the four-week period (3 899). These are Kimberley, Springbok, Upington, Calvinia and De aar.

As at yesterday a total number of 186 930 people have been tested and 4 987 226 multiple screenings have been done as we wage war against the pandemic.

This past year has seen hundreds of vaccines in development worldwide in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic. In December of last year, a handful of these laboratories began to release results showing their efficacy and safety in phase 3 trials, which are usually considered the final stage in a series of tests before companies can begin seeking regulatory approval. During this time, South Africa’s ministerial advisory committee on COVID-19 vaccines developed a strategy to ensure equitable access to vaccines. This strategy outlines the country’s plans for the rollout of a COVID-19 jab, including how the shot can be purchased and who the priority groups for vaccination are. Vaccines are an important part of stopping the spread of COVID-19 in a country. This is because they offer protection to an individual, by reducing a person’s risk of infection or the severity of their symptoms, and also at a population level. This population-level protection is often referred to as herd immunity and happens when enough people have developed an immune response — in the form of antibodies and killer cells — to fight off the virus that there is a low risk of the virus continuing to spread within that community. This immunity can be developed either through receiving a vaccine or by previously having been infected.

The national health department will coordinate the vaccine rollout with the provincial health departments and the private healthcare sector. Structures will need to be established at a district level by the provincial health department to manage the mass rollout. The vaccine will be given out in three phases beginning with frontline healthcare workers, followed by other essential workers and high-risk groups before trying to reach the wider population. Distribution of doses will become less targeted as more vaccines become available. The Province is gearing it up for the vaccine rollout once it becomes available and has already put in place a vaccine strategy that will be rolled out in a phased approach.

The Provincial Department of Education has thoroughly assessed the readiness of schools for the start of the 2021 school academic in terms of adherence to the COVID-19 Adjusted Alert Level 3. All schools must comply with the COVID-19 regulations and guidelines before it can receive learners. Schools will make use of differentiated timetables for the phasing in of learners. Currently the need for additional classrooms in areas where an increase in learner numbers are expected is being determined. At the same time, the infrastructure needs of schools in terms of ablution facilities, sufficient water provisioning and general needs which may affect the health and safety of educators and learners are being assessed. Thus far, since the start of the National State of Disaster in March 2020, 18 educators in the Northern Cape have succumbed to this deadly virus.

Alert level 3 requires the Department to promote physical distancing and encourage employees to work from home, where possible.  The regulations also require special measures for employees with known or disclosed health conditions or comorbidities, or with any condition which may place such an employee at a higher risk of complications or death if they are infected with COVID-19. This includes employees above the age of 60. In 2020, 1700 educators applied to work from home due to comorbidities.

Educators who will be working from home will be required to prepare weekly support packages and homework for learners. Support packages will be provided to parents with guidelines to assist learners at home. The educators will mark the work and provide feedback to the learner.

As far as compliance with the Disaster Management Regulations is concerned; to date a total number of 11 053 cases have been registered and arrests made of people that were contravening the Disaster Management Act regulations. Schools will also be patrolled to curb burglaries and vandalism. Members of the community are urged to assist in making sure that schools are secured. Mining operations will also be monitored. Noteworthy was the fact that the Provincial Liquor Board had conducted 406 compliance inspections and acted where regulations were not adhered to.

The Provincial Command Council also received presentations from the Districts on work being rolled out at the District Joints. Reports were also received from the National Department of Public Works and the Department of Home Affairs on especially the Provincial Ports of entry and work that is being done to secure these ports but also the safety of officials as well as maintenance and repair work that is taking place. Currently only three out of the twelve ports of entry are open for Commercial, Humanitarian, Medical and Country evacuations and repatriations.   The Department of Home Affairs has committed to make available more information pertaining to the services that they are rendering under lockdown level 3.

Premier Saul commended the people in the Province that are complying to a large extent with the regulations. He also made a plea to especially areas that may become potential hotspots; that people make a greater effort to adhere to the safety protocols and regulations. People also need to take note of all communications around the vaccine and not be sidetracked by all the myths and false information. The Premier concluded by making an appeal to everyone to keep themselves safe, keep their families safe and keeps their communities safe.

The virus is still part of us and people should continue to wear their masks, practice social distancing and continue to wash hands with water and soap or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. It becomes increasingly important for citizens to play their part to protect themselves and others against Coronavirus.

Bronwyn Thomas-Abrahams
Spokesperson to the Premier
083 447 6586
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Issued by the Office of the Premier
18 January 2021

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