Health Department must communicate as second wave hits Eastern Cape

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be in full swing in the Eastern Cape, with the Department of Health already severely stretched as hospital admissions increase.

The failure to communicate effectively on the continued dangers of this virus is resulting in a high degree of non-compliance. In the DA-administered Western Cape there is a live Covid-19 dashboard, accessible to the public with up to date statistics to keep the public informed.

There have been early warning signs throughout October of a second wave forming in the province, with a significant uptick in cases in the province’s two Metros, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City, in recent weeks.

Unfortunately, as the daily reports come in, the evidence is clearly showing a spike in cases. Looking at the seven-day average figures, the province has recorded an average of 616 cases per day over the past week, up from 434 the week before, and 283 the week before that.

Despite this data, there has been very little in the way of communication to warn members of the public, who appear to have grown complacent in the face of the pandemic, and the ongoing hardships they have endured for months.

As a result, we are seeing a general lack of compliance implementing potentially life-saving measures, including the wearing of masks, regularly washing or sanitising hands and keeping a safe distance from other people.

I am challenging the MEC for Health, Sindiswa Gomba, step up the Department’s communications strategy and keep the public informed of infection statistics and hotspots on a daily basis, so that individuals and businesses can remain safe. It’s the very least she can do, and it is the what one should expect from a competent state.

The Department will have its work cut out for it, as it is already facing systemic challenges, such as severe understaffing and poor reporting systems. There are still significant challenges with the testing teams and Track and Trace teams, which are hampering the containment of cluster outbreaks in hotspot areas.

The government has also scored several own goals with reference to the above, with thousands of indigent people expected to queue monthly in order to claim their social and Covid-19 grants, where social distancing is seldom enforced and queues are not monitored as they should be.

The ECSECC (Eastern Cape Socio Economic Consultative Council) ward-based Rapid Response Dashboard, which was designed to reflect real time data and statistics, is still lagging behind by several days, and some of the information reflected on the dashboard is outdated.

For example, the dashboard reflected this morning that 438 024 people have been tested overall in the province, while the correct number is actually 519 414.

Most frustrating however, is that this dashboard has never been made available to the public to keep them informed, and thus empowered to make smart decisions regarding their wellbeing.

The Democratic Alliance will continue to advocate for a capable state that can protect lives and livelihoods as we navigate the Covid -19 virus for the second time.

Note to editors: You can download a sound clip in English from Jane Cowley, MPL