REMARKS BY THE HONOURABLE KZN PREMIER MR SIHLE ZIKALALA, ON THE OCCASION OF UPDATING THE MEDIA ON THE STATUS QUO REGARDING COVID – 19, 26 APRIL 2020, IN KZN
WISHING OUR MUSLIM COMMUNITY A BLESSED RAMADAN
Let me begin by wishing the Muslim community a blessed Ramadan. It was alongside our Muslim compatriots, that we were able to bring down the walls of racial division and usher in a new society founded on unity, no-racialism, non-sexism, equality, justice and prosperity.
This year’s Ramadan has arrived amid the COVID-19 heath crisis. We are observing this sacred tradition in a new normal manner. Many are confined at home as travel is heavily restricted. Let us pray for the wisdom and strength to overcome the current health challenge. We therefore thank our Muslim community for their selfless contribution as we engage in this new offensive against the invisible and deadly COVID – 19.
PROVINCIAL COMMAND COUNCIL OUTCOMES
As the Command Council, we once again convened on Friday to take stock of our progress in the fight against the Novel Coronavirus.
This was our first meeting since we announced an intensified lockdown for eThekwini in our quest to stem the tide of new infections, particularly in this district.
KwaZulu-Natal has up to this point contributed nearly 21 % of new cases in the country.
As of the 25th April 2020, KwaZulu-Natal has had 846 confirmed cases, 29 deaths, and 241 recoveries. While there were no deaths reported we remain vigilant in our monitoring and management of the cases.
We are still noticing a trend whereby most of our new cases are being registered in eThekwini, which is recording above 10 cases per day. In fact, there is not a single day that eThekwini does not report new cases - unlike other districts, which can go on for days without having new cases. It is also concerning to us that we are noting an increase in the number of positive cases at Ilembe District.
Since the 22nd of April 2020, of the 44 new cases reported, 19 were from eThekwini, and 25 were reported at Ilembe.
LATEST PROVINCIAL STATISTICS ON THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS
In terms of where we stand with positive cases, the Province is looking as follows:
● Amajuba 8
● EThekwini now - 579
● King Cetshwayo 12
● Harry Gwala 1
● Ilembe now - 122
● Ugu 16
● UMgungundlovu 49
● UMkhanyakude 21
● UMzinyathi 3
● UThukela 23
● Zululand 2
Last Sunday, we had 383 cases for eThekwini; today we are at 579. Last Sunday, our deaths in eThekwini stood at 21…. Today, we are at 25. All the other four (4) districts have registered one death since the start of the pandemic.
So, as things stand, we remain more concerned with the Ethekwini situation and what is emerging in ILembe District.
The President on Thursday announced that we will now follow a Risk Adjusted Strategy, which will see the country downgrading to level 4 from the 1st of May 2020. This is welcome news as it will begin to free some areas of economic activity.
The President, however, further clarified and emphasized that even during level 4 the risk is still too high. Therefore the precautions that were put for the civil society to comply with still apply and must be adhered to.
If we were to use the National Risk Adjusted Strategy guideline, as things stand, it looks like eThekwini will still remain under stricter lockdown regulations compared to other districts – unless there is a drastic change in the coming days.
WHY MORE DEATHS IN ETHEKWINI?
As the Provincial Command Council we have also been occupied with attempts to establish reasons behind the province experiencing more deaths than other provinces while these provinces have a higher infection.
Our initial suspicion is that there may be a problem with the management of these cases, particularly in the private sector. We have therefore instituted an investigation through the Department of Health. This investigation must tell us whether the reason for this is due to medical reasons or negligence.
PROGRESS IN THE TESTING AND SCREENING
The Department of Health has augmented teams responsible for screening within the Province. Some teams have been redeployed from districts that currently have low infection rates to those with high infection rates such as Ethekwini and Ilembe. The Department of Health has brought Mobile Testing Units to eThekwini to assist with fast-tracking the testing programme. The University of KwaZulu-Natal has offered to add their post-graduate students to boost capacity, all of which we highly appreciate.
To date we have screened over 1 million people and tested over 11 400. We now have a ward-based screening and testing time schedule.
CURBING THE INFECTION OF HEALTH WORKERS
The total number of laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases involving healthcare workers is 121, because this number has grown from 108 last week. This is concerning because as far as we are aware, all our qualifying healthcare workers should have access to the Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) that they need in order to avoid infection. It would appear that we probably need to further capacitate our healthcare workers in the correct use of PPE.
FIGHTING GROWING STIGMA AROUND COVID – 19
We have noted with concern protests by the people of Untunjambili at Ilembe District. These are people who were angry, because of the admission of 10 patients who are COVID – 19 positive at the hospital.
As the Provincial Command Council we are calling for an end to discrimination against persons who are infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19). Being infected with COVID-19 is not necessarily a death sentence, and there is no good reason to ostracise other members of society. COVID-19 is something that has descended upon us, and the victims, it is not their fault and as a caring society we must care for those in need of help to recover from this virus.
We are busy preparing for the accommodation of patients in all areas of the province. In some areas as it was the case in Untunjambili due to the low bed utilisation, the Department decided to use the facility for the quarantining, isolation and treatment of COVID-19 patients.
It is deeply concerning that the people whom the community wants to chase away are from the same district as them. So, where must they go?
Furthermore, the hospital’s 24-hour Gateway Clinic, which is on the same premises, is still rendering Primary Health Care (PHC) services to the public.
We are calling for an end to the social stigma attached to the disease, as well as those who are affected by it. We need to stop that, and accept that COVID-19 is here, and it is part of our lives.
We need to elevate our knowledge and understanding on what its symptoms are, as well as what those who display them need to do. We therefore appeal to our fellow compatriots to calm down, and desist from protesting because gathering in large groups is in itself illegal, as it constitutes a violation of lockdown regulations.
ENFORCEMENT OF INTENSIFIED LOCKDOWN
We welcome the significant progress made by our law enforcement authorities in the apprehension of those who have sought to violate the regulations of the intensified lockdown.
Since the intensification of the lockdown, a total of 1182 arrests have been made by the police.
We want to commend the law enforcement operations for upscaling efforts to ensure compliance with lockdown regulations. There is a new trend by criminals of using funeral provision in the regulations to pursue criminal activities. To highlight just two recent incidents: Pongola visible police members stopped a vehicle pretending to be a funeral parlour. They asked for a permit and were shown a vehicle pass permit that they are a funeral parlour carrying a corpse. The vehicle was searched and what was believed to be a corpse turned out to be 30 bags of dagga parcels that weighed 80kg . The suspects were arrested.
Last night, in a separate incident in Underberg, Covid-19 police operations spotted a car also belonging to a funeral service, the car was stopped and searched and liqour was recovered in the car. The suspects were arrested. We are sending a strong message to all criminal networks that the law will catch up with you.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN AND SOCIAL RELIEF
As we are all aware, the COVID-19 global crisis is ravaging the world economy and already having a detrimental socio-economic effects on South Africa in the following ways:
● Increasing poverty levels - many people requiring food
● People losing their source of income
● No visitors coming to South Africa - Hotels have closed down
● Several sectors have closed or remain partially closed
● Tourism events have cancelled
● People’s source of income has been wiped away
There is a dire and urgent need for KwaZulu-Natal to re-calibrate the economic growth trajectory.
It has become crystal clear that the SA economic strategy going forward will require a new economic architecture and social compact among all roleplayers – business, labour, community and government – to restructure the economy and achieve inclusive growth. We will in the coming weeks unpack and take the public into confidence about the economic recovery programme for our province.
FREEDOM DAY CELEBRATIONS
Tomorrow is Freedom Day, as a national day that gave birth to a democratic South Africa. The Freedom Day is an occasion to engender social cohesion and national identity that is representative of South Africa’s rich and diverse culture.
As the province of KwaZulu-Natal we will use the day tomorrow to appreciate the work of essential services in various disciplines, including in healthcare, law enforcement, and emergency services. We will interact with some of them tomorrow. The aim of this is to recognise their noble contribution and sacrifice in the service of their country and her people.
I invite all the people of KwaZulu-Natal to dedicate a minute of their time to send a message, pray and thank the essential workers.