New EC Covid-19 cases as lockdown starts

A total of 280 additional beds will be made available at intensive care units for the elderly who are infected with Covid-19.
A total of 280 additional beds will be made available at intensive care units for the elderly who are infected with Covid-19.

The Eastern Cape has three more confirmed coronavirus cases — one in East London, one in Xhorha (Elliotdale) in the former Transkei and one in Port Elizabeth, the first case in the province's biggest metro.

Only hours before the 21-day national lockdown came into effect at midnight on Thursday, premier Oscar Mabuyane told DispatchLIVE of the three new cases, bringing the total to five in the Eastern Cape.

The national health ministry confirmed on Thursday evening there were now five cases in the province.

No further details were available at the time of writing. 

Those already confirmed to have the virus are a 28-year-old Mercedes-Benz employee from East London and a German tourist now isolated in Chintsa.

The infected person in Xhorha is the first known case in the province's rural areas. All spheres of government have expressed concern about how these regions would be able to handle a Covid-19 outbreak.  

Mabuyane announced a series of lockdown measures at a media briefing in Bhisho on Thursday.

A total of 280 additional beds will be made available at intensive care units for the elderly who are infected with Covid-19.

In addition, homeless people and destitute families will receive three meals a day at  shelters and centres across the district municipalities, Mabuyane said.

The provincial government has also sought to address education during the lockdown.

Interactive learning via the internet will take place through the Mandla Makupula Institute in East London.

Provincial health superintendent-general Dr Thobile Mbengashe said the province had taken a decision to increase the number of ICU beds at hospitals by 280 for patients older than 65.

“Those are people who are at high risk,” Mbengashe said.

We've already agreed that ICU beds are the most critical. The province is going to add additional beds in ICU. These ICU beds will be fitted with ventilators.” 

Social development MEC Sphokazi Mani-Lusithi said centres and shelters would hand out parcels of food to destitute families.

“As social development working with Cogta. We are now in the process of confirming with all district municipalities centres that will serve as a place of safety for the homeless, be it adults or children. All districts will have these places in their big towns. In OR Tambo, you will have it in Mthatha,” she said.

There will also be centres in Buffalo City, Nelson Mandela, and Joe Gqabi, Alfred Nzo, Sarah Baartman and Amathole districts.

“With Sassa, we're going to provide two meals and hygiene and necessary utensils per day to these centres.”

Mani-Lusithi said social development would assist gender-based violence victims by housing them in safe houses during the lockdown period.

Education MEC Fundile Gade said his department was adopting an approach of  “anywhere, any time” through its e-learning programme.

This would be achieved through remote learning carried via the Mandla Makupula Institute where a “skeleton staff” was stationed to ensure that virtual classes proceeded smoothly.

He said the content would be loaded from the institute, where experts in all subjects would assist with the virtual classes.

The broadcasts will be made at 6pm via television and radio.

Gade said: “We are anticipating that we might have to be proactive ... to ensure that we purchase SIM cards and load content for them (pupils), even post Covid-19.

“They are quite fond of using cellphones. In a way, the current environment has opened up our eyes in terms of innovative ideas to catch up with the programmes.”

Mabuyane said the provincial government would use the 21-day period to conduct research on the influence of drugs and alcohol in gender-based violence.

He said payments to small businesses which provided services for the province would be made immediately.

“We will not be shutting down, but we will be scaling down operations of government services. The majority of employees will be working from home.”