Thursday, 14 May 2020

Eastern Cape: President Cyril Ramaphosa has given the Eastern Cape’s preparations to deal with the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic the thumbs up.

“I’m particularly happy that you have awoken to the danger of this and are now putting in place a clear health strategy that is going to address this,” said the President.

The President paid a visit to Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape on Thursday to assess the provincial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Eastern Cape has 1534 confirmed COVID-19 cases and accounts for 13.3 % of infections nationally.

The oversight visit comes as government prepares to ease the lockdown and reopen the economy.

With consultations on easing the lockdown further to level 3 set to get underway on Friday, the President indicated the country could move to level 3 of the lockdown even before the end of May.

The visit forms part of a series of oversight visits by the President to Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal to evaluate the fight against COVID-19.

The President’s comments come following his address to the nation on Wednesday where he said government is considering a proposal to move to level 3 by the end of May.

Outlining the province’s response to COVID-19, Eastern Cape Premier Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane highlighted measures such as the provision of beds in hospitals, boosting its human resource capacity, procurement of water to drought stricken communities and preparations for the return of children to classrooms.

Mabuyane highlighted that the province plans to incrementally avail more beds to the western region in order to respond to the epicentre’s demands for beds.

“An investment of R50.5 million is targeted to improve 29 health facilities. A further R3 million is being invested into the hospitality sector in order to support the programme of quarantining. An additional 100 beds at an estimated cost R251 millionwill be provided, “ he said.

In April, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize paid a visit to the Easter Cape where he expressed concern about the surge in COVID-19 cases as well as the province’s readiness to address the pandemic.

“The infections took a bit longer to come here and the province was not ready at all. Listening to their plan today, there were four things that I was concerned about. The first is the strategy. I am happy with it.

“The strategy is focused and directed. With the approach you are taking, you are on the right track,” said Mkhize.

To date, the province has recorded 1534 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 24 deaths and 632 recoveries.

The Minister also commended the province for its strides in procuring personal protective equipment, boosting its human resources and availing infrastructure.

Echoing the Minister, President Ramaphosa commended the province for its use of the District Development Model in mapping out its plan to address the scourge of the virus in the province.

Additionally, the President expressed appreciation for the province’s forward thinking in its approach to dealing with COVID-19.

“Beyond COVID-19, the economy of our country is almost going to be like a wasteland, and we therefore need to revitalise it and rejuvenate it.

“I’m delighted that already you are looking at opportunities; not only to revitalise but to transform and enhance the recovery of the economy.”

Putting in place the building blocks for NHI

The President also called on the province to use the pandemic as a building block for the National Health Insurance (NHI).

“I think we should use COVID-19 as a building block of the NHI [National Health Insurance]. As you identify places where you have got to put down field hospitals, make sure that you are also looking into the future because field hospitals will be there for that moment then they will be demolished.

“I am saying do put the building blocks in place for structures that can be used beyond COVID-19,” said the President.

Following the presentation of the province’s plan, the President went on a walkabout of Livingstone hospital which is designated to treat COVID-19.

Fruitful engagement

The President wrapped up his Eastern Cape trip with a visit to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, which is earmarked as a facility for quarantine or isolation of COVID-19 patients.

Following visits to the hospital as well as the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, the President said the visit had been a fruitful one.

“I’ve been really pleased to be here. It has been a very fruitful day of good engagement, where the province has been able to give us a full explanation of a number of things that they’re working on in relation to COVID-19. We were concerned and are still concerned about the rising number of infections in the Eastern Cape.”

“They have been able to lay out their strategies of dealing with the virus  and take aggressive action in relation to seeing how best we can reduce the higher number of infections,” said the President.

The President said the province has addressed human resources issues by bringing in a number of health and community workers who will screen people. The province has also set up field hospitals in a number of areas, among others.