BEHIND THE NEWS — Direct questions, straight answers in the time of Covid-19

Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba has led the charge in the province's fight against the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba has led the charge in the province's fight against the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Image: MARK ANDREWS

The Eastern Cape government has taken bold steps to implement President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Provincial authorities have been implementing measures at short notice, including roadblocks and the provision of security personnel.

Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba has led the charge in the fight against the virus.

If her tough talk in interviews is anything to go by, the Eastern Cape government is ready for action.

This week she criticised how a group of German tourists — one of them testing positive for the virus — was even allowed to go to Chintsa.

While there had been reports that the government initially suppressed experts' voices, Gomba and premier Oscar Mabuyane are to be applauded for transparency.

They were quick to respond to Daily Dispatch questions about issues that we picked up from our readers who called in.

Instead of putting a spin on the situation, they have been frank.

Shortly before the Eastern Cape announced its first coronavirus case, Mabuyane went as far as saying that he was worried because the province did not have the capacity to handle the virus.

Honesty does win the day.

The language of our usually technocrat politicians has been clear and simple during this time. It has been an indication that it’s not just business as usual.

The coronavirus has also changed newsroom operations.

Almost overnight, the usual hustle and bustle died down.

With most of us working remotely or attending important press briefings, it can be a lonely place for those in the office.

But we are an essential service, and the show must go on.

Every journalist knows that no two days are the same in a daily newspaper environment, but covering the virus has provided memorable moments I will not soon forget.

As disturbing as it has been to witness case numbers rising, bringing the latest news has been exhilarating from a professional perspective.

At the end of last week government ramped up measures to fight the virus.

But before that one had a sense that the outbreak presented us journalists, and certainly government, with the opportunity to “switch on”. 

As with every journalist working in a daily newspaper, one has to plan for the days ahead.

I had spent the previous week with a diary filled with stories that were not pertinent to Covid-19. Many of these have taken a back seat for the moment, even though they remain important to readers.

After reading an article on research findings at a Chinese university, which concluded that the virus could be spread through contact with human stools, I immediately thought of Duncan Village, which is practically sitting on a broken sewerage system.

A day later, I put this question to mayor Xola Pakati, who passed the question to the department of health and would not commit to an outright response.

Nobody could fault him for that, because we are now in unknown territory.

When I visited Duncan Village, people implored me to write the story because they were worried the virus would spread like “rapid fire” were it to enter the area.


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