Gauteng health department 'doing its best' as it prepares for the worst

Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku during an earlier visit to the Johannesburg Expo Centre to inspect it for readiness to accommodate Covid-19 patients. He said on Tuesday his department was doing its best to prepare for the looming peak in infections.
Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku during an earlier visit to the Johannesburg Expo Centre to inspect it for readiness to accommodate Covid-19 patients. He said on Tuesday his department was doing its best to prepare for the looming peak in infections. 
Image: ER Lombard/Gallo Images

The Gauteng health department said on Tuesday it is doing all it can to prepare for the looming peak in Covid-19 infections.

This assurance came as MEC Dr Bandile Masuku confirmed he suggested to the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) that some parts of the province be placed under an “intermittent” lockdown.

Nearly 40,000 infections have been recorded so far, with a significant spike in the past week or so. The province is expected to overtake the Western Cape to become the country's epicentre in days to come.

On Monday, the national health ministry said that of the more than 6,000 new cases of Covid-19 since Sunday, more than half were in Gauteng.

Masuku told TimesLIVE that the suggestion to the council was influenced by various factors, including the recent decision by taxi operators to defy lockdown rules and load to 100% capacity — something he said not only posed a health risk but also “created a high-risk environment”.

He also expressed concern at how many people were not adhering to lockdown rules in public spaces, such as wearing masks and social distancing.

“We remain concerned about the cluster outbreaks we have witnessed, especially through funeral gatherings. This remains a problem. We urge people to take responsibility and adhere to lockdown regulations,” said Masuku.

Asked if the province was ready to deal with the peak, Masuku said it was doing all it could to prepare for the tough times ahead. He said the private sector had been asked to intervene “when the time comes”.

“We are currently doing all we can to prepare as best as we can for the peak,” he said.

“We so far have five quarantine or isolation sites that are fully operational to help those who cannot isolate or quarantine at home. We have an agreement with the private sector for utilisation of their beds for when the time comes.”

A total of 2,376 people are currently hospitalised in public and private facilities in the province. The department has the capacity to accommodate more than 8,000 people.

“We are lucky so far that most people have not needed hospitalisation out of the total number of confirmed positive cases,” said the MEC.

While a decision has not yet been made on whether some parts of the province would return to hard lockdown, Masuku said this strategy had worked in other countries, “but ultimately such decisions lie with the NCCC”.

The department said it would continue procuring ventilators and other equipment and also ensure the availability of oxygen at hospitals as measures to deal with the increased infections.


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