Covid-19: Gauteng is facing ‘mass casualty situation’, says Netcare CEO

Netcare Group CEO Dr Richard Friedland says the situation in Gauteng is “extremely tough”. Stock photo.
Netcare Group CEO Dr Richard Friedland says the situation in Gauteng is “extremely tough”. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/ HXDBZXY

Gauteng is bearing the brunt of the increase in Covid-19 cases and right across the board there is an urgent demand for high care beds, Netcare Group CEO Dr Richard Friedland says.

During an interview on the Money Show with Bruce Whitfield on 702 on Monday, Friedland said the situation is Gauteng was “extremely tough”.

Friedland told the station that the thousands of Covid-19 cases in Gauteng indicated that without “a level 5 lockdown, we may not see the end of the surge for some time to come”.

“If government isn’t going to lock down the Gauteng province, we have to self-regulate ourselves.

“We are dealing virtually with something that I would classify as a mass casualty situation. We are dealing with a mass casualty situation on an ongoing basis across Gauteng since last week.

“We are 30% higher than we were in the second wave and there is no evidence that we are peaking yet,” he said.

On Monday, premier David Makhura said he was open “to exploring” putting Gauteng under stricter lockdown if need be.

“Gauteng is burning, and the province doesn't want to send out a message that everything is OK.

“I must say that the house is on fire. We will not change the projection of the virus unless we change our behaviour,” Makhura said.    

Friedland said the province was well prepared and had learnt from the first and second waves, but the “sheer numbers are overwhelming facilities at the moment and it is not that facilities in the private or public sector are not prepared”.

“There are a lot more people getting infected.”

Despite calls for schools to be shut after an increase in the number of infections countrywide, a decision to keep them open was made on Saturday at a meeting of the Council of Education Ministers. 

“We believe that schools must remain open, and in saying so we are not insensitive to the concerns raised about the rising infections,”basic education minister Angie Motshekga said at a media briefing in Pretoria at the weekend.

“I know that parents are concerned about the rising number of infections but it was agreed between the department, unions, school governing bodies and independent schools that ... what we need to do is manage the problem on a school-by-school and province-by-province basis.”

But Friedland was adamant that there was an urgent need to close schools because “more and more schools are being impacted”.

“We believe that schools need to be closed down. Children themselves might not be that badly impacted by the illness but they pass it on to parents, caregivers and grandparents and we think that is problematic.”