Massive Covid-19 spike in Eastern Cape should sound alarm bells

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

There has been a massive spike in Covid-19 infections across the Eastern Cape, which has left citizens fearful of a more powerful and deadly third wave than was previously anticipated.

While testing has been ramped up, the Department of Health is failing miserably to track and trace infected individuals and their close contacts, thus allowing the virus to spread in our communities.

The latest figures available, show that six of our eight districts have reported more than 20 cases per 100 000 population, and at least four districts have a positivity rate in excess of 20% of all tests done. This qualifies as an alert situation.

The province also has the third-highest excess deaths recorded in the country, behind Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with the latest figures for the period between 3 May 2020 and 7 August 2021 standing at 36,624.

Schools are particularly hard hit, with hundreds of learners across the province testing positive. This coincides with the easing of school-going restrictions. It must be noted that the prevalent Delta variant does not discriminate with respect to age.

Contact tracing has been severely limited by the fact that most health institutions across the province are desperately short-staffed. Staff who are at work have been diverted to assist with the rollout of the vaccination programme across the province.

In rural districts such as Joe Gqabi and Chris Hani, there is a shortage of ambulances to transfer Covid-19 patients to the relevant facilities for admission. In Joe Gqabi, it is alleged that there is not a single isolation unit available for Persons Under Investigation (PUI’s).

This creates a twofold challenge – firstly these patients are usually indigent and thus unable to self-isolate in their small homes, which results in infection of family members. Secondly, they are being placed in Covid-19 wards for observation, which is a massive risk to their health while also reducing the number of beds available for Covid-19 patients.

I will write to the MEC for Health, Nomakosazana Meth, to request that urgent solutions are found for the shortages of contact tracers across all districts. The Department must also investigate borrowing vehicles from less affected districts, such as Alfred Nzo, for the appropriate transfer of both Covid-19 patients and Persons Under Investigation.

Sadly, this once again highlights the shocking state that our Health Department is in, and unless drastic action is taken, with the Department being placed under administration, countless lives will continue to be lost unnecessarily.

The severely compromised Department of Health must pull out all the stops to ensure a more comprehensive response. The lives of our citizens depend on it.