Buckle up for Covid storm, warns Eastern Cape premier

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane
Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane

Even as new Covid-19 cases in the Eastern Cape amount to 2,000 a day, premier Oscar Mabuyane has warned that the full might of the storm is still to come.

The surge in infections is expected to double over the next six weeks.

The Eastern Cape had 74,231 confirmed cases, 1,534 deaths and 58,685 recoveries by print deadline  on Tuesday.

The premier's warning comes as the provincial health system buckles under the strain of 3,534 health workers testing positive. So far 56 have lost their lives to Covid-19.

Mabuyane said the surge in infections in August will put the “already strained health system” under more pressure, particularly on the availability of critical care beds.

“This month of July has been a mixed bag of successes and setbacks in our fight against the pandemic. It is a month where we have had a steady increase of 2,000 cases per day. But we also had a ‘slow burn’ rate in the last two weeks of this month.” 

He said it was critical that communities continue to adhere to the universal protocols of wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing. “Our forecast is that August is the centre of the Covid-19 storm. All of us need to buckle up because we are about to enter the toughest time of our lifetime.”

Infections are expected to decline in September, he said. “October is the month when we expect to see a stabilisation in daily increases, and this will offer some relief to our pressured health systems.”

Mabuyane said infection, quarantining and death of healthcare workers, non-availability of beds, lack of oxygen, ineffective leadership at health institutions and inadequate psychosocial support posed serious challenges in the province.

He pinned his hopes on a quick turnaround of Bhisho's strategy with the help of health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize's adviser Dr Sibongile Zungu, who was recently sent to the province to lead the project management unit set up to help the ailing provincial health department.

“ The team has already developed a comprehensive overall plan to operationalise Covid-19 provincial, district and site-specific management and implementation structures.” 

Mabuyane said the department would receive R2.5bn from Bhisho, R840m of which would go towards field hospitals, infrastructure and operating costs such as maintenance of quarantine and isolation sites by the department of public works. He broke this down further as:

• * R481m for PPE and consumables;

• * R175m for 5,400 community health workers;

• * R173m for ventilators for 240 ICU beds;

• * R17m for 171 enrolled nurses and nursing assistants for 12 months in addition to the 822 allocated in the emergency funding; and

• * R12m for Cuban doctors and nurses.

“I must hasten to add that R325m is allocated to the department of education for the appointment of temporary teachers to replace the 2,278 comorbidity cases that could be affected by Covid-19, and R16m for mobile connectivity for teachers and pupils prioritising grades 6 to 11 during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Mabuyane said those found to be doing wrong would be held to account.

“As soon as we realised there might be incidents of corruption in Covid-related procurement, whether real or perceived, we were the first province to write to the president asking him to institute SIU [Special Investigating Unit] investigations into Covid-19 related procurement in our province.

“We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of SIU investigators. All departments they are interested in will fully co-operate.”

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