Gauteng Premier David Makhura begged the province’s residents on Thursday not to go out if there is no reason to, as he revealed that one out of every three people in Gauteng is likely to be carrying the Covid-19 virus.
The province is in the midst of a third wave of Covid-19 infections and its health sector is battling to keep up with the rate of infections, which almost breached 11 000 in 24 hours on Wednesday.
While the province would not see an increase in restrictions, Makhura said to curb infections law enforcement in Gauteng will be increased dramatically to enforce compliance to lockdown regulations.
He said there was much more compliance to Covid-19 restrictions in the second wave of the pandemic and noted, specifically, a lack of compliance in shopping malls, restaurants and in township businesses.
“We have reached a daily infection rate that has not been reached in the peaks of the first and second waves. The spike that is happening suggests that we have not yet reached the peak. Our province has been contributing over 60% of new cases nationally,” he said.
The province wants to localise the enforcement of regulations and will also increase public communication to ensure compliance with the protocols in place to curb infections.
The province currently has 5 800 people hospitalised and Makhura noted that there are still too many people that have not yet built immunity to the virus.
He said while Gauteng was relatively safe during the second wave, compared with the coastal areas, there are still many people in Gauteng who are vulnerable to the virus.
“Just because you didn’t get it in the first or second wave, doesn’t mean you won’t get it in the third wave. The pandemic is everywhere, and please play it safe. Clinicians will tell you we are struggling, we are under extreme pressure,” he said.
Makhura warned of ‘Covid fatigue’.
“It has been difficult, it is a difficult life but Covid fatigue just leads to more infections and it will lead to death,” he stressed.
Sectoral support and collaboration, he noted, was the most effective way to deal with the pandemic.
Makhura said his team had met with the religious sector and liquor traders and was reassured by leaders of communities of faith that many of them were doing their best to ensure and observe protocols.
“We don’t want to shut down places of worship especially in difficult times, such as when family and friends are succumbing to Covid. We are in discussion with liquor traders – they are training across the country on compliance with Covid protocols. Those that don’t comply create a crisis for us,” he stated.
He urged law enforcement to shut down any establishment that does not comply with lockdown regulations and said the province would take guidance from clinicians to ensure that trauma wards did not fill up.
CHARLOTTE MAXEKE HOSPITAL
As part of the province’s attempt to relive pressure in the healthcare sector, the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, which was closed in April owing to a fire, will now open part of its facility.
Following legal advice and engagement with the City of Johannesburg, Makhura announced that structural engineers had assessed the damage caused by the fire and declared that Blocks 1 and 2 of the hospital were unaffected.
Blocks 1 and 2 will host critical services such as Covid-19, neonatal and oncology services amongst others.
“We consulted widely. I personally consulted widely. We could not wait until September until every compliance has been met. The people who were at the hospital are overburdening other hospitals. We weighed the risks with the fact that there are parts of the building that are structurally sound and can serve their purpose,” Makhura said.
He said the opening of part of the hospital would relieve the pressure off other hospitals such as the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
The province is ramping up testing, tracking and tracing, as well as its vaccination programme. Talks are taking place to decide how soon those aged between 50 and 59 can receive vaccines.
Makhura noted that so far, infection rates in schools had been low and had not been driving community infections in the province. However, he assured that if schools became an area of concern, there would be interventions.
“I am confident we will get over the third wave as we did with the first and second. It will not be easy, it will take all of us to do this. As the Premier, when the surge is happening, I know my head is on the block and I put it there. The surge is here, it has not slowed down, the incline is continuing. The only people that can slow it down are the people of the province,” he said.