Jitters over Covid testing

2020-04-17 14:00
MEC for Health Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu (left) and KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala at the launch of the provincial screening and testing programme at Jika Joe. PHOTOS: Moeketsi Mamane

MEC for Health Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu (left) and KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala at the launch of the provincial screening and testing programme at Jika Joe. PHOTOS: Moeketsi Mamane

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Some Jika Joe residents are fearful of contracting Covid-19 from their neighbours who have apparently said they would not participate in government’s screening and testing programme.

They shared this with The Witness on the sidelines of the launch of the provincial screening and testing programme, led by Premier Sihle Zikalala, on Thursday.

“Some people believe the swabs that are used for testing carry the virus so they think they will be infected if they go for the test. Others think they will be injected with Covid-19 when they go there,” said Bongumusa Matiela.

He said this reminded him of the time when the government first started the campaign to get people to check their HIV status.

Nonhlanhla Mbuyisa said: “They don’t believe us when we tell them it’s better to test and get treated if you have the virus than die from something that could have been treated.”

She said she was worried as people live in close proximity and their children play together. She said she would ask for advice from the health professionals who have been deployed to do screening and testing on what to do if her neighbours refused to get tested.

Bongekile Mazibuko said: “Testing should not be voluntary, otherwise we are not going to win the battle, especially in informal settlements because the transmission rate is likely to be higher because we live so close to each other and the hygiene practices are not the best.”

She said some of her neighbours probably feared getting tested because they are in the country illegally and feared possible deportation once the lockdown is lifted.

MEC for Health Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said dealing with misinformation and stigma around Covid-19 is one of the biggest challenges that the government faced as it tries to contain the spread of the virus.

She said there is an awareness campaign already under way to get people to buy into the screening and testing programme so that they could also take part.

The MEC said no one is being injected with anything when they are screened or tested so people must stop believing those who are trying to mislead them. “We were dismayed a few days ago to witness a video, as well as voice-notes, which made a number of unfounded and dangerous claims about this programme before it even started.

“Some of these false claims were to the effect that the home screening and testing programme was being done to actually infect our people with Covid–19,” said Zikalala.

He said this is tantamount to treason as it aimed to derail an important, safe and scientifically-proven method to fight the scourge of the virus.

“We call on our communities not to be swayed by such agent provocateurs, and instead welcome these teams into their homes so that the programme can be a success.”

There are 565 mass screening and testing teams, with a total of 1 130 members distributed throughout the province for the programme.

Zikalala said these teams work in pairs, and are mostly enrolled nurses.

“In addition to that, there are 90 teams focusing on road blocks, and 620 tracer teams providing contact tracing.”

The teams will also be working with community health workers from local areas. They have been trained in mass screening and testing using a questionnaire with 27 questions available in both English and Zulu.

“There are 12 mobile testing vehicles provided in the province, of which four vehicles have already been received. Three of these vehicles are allocated in eThekwini, due to the high burden of this pandemic, while the other vehicle is allocated in uMgungundlovu District.

“We are fully conscious that our crime-weary citizens are concerned about opportunistic criminals who might want to pose as field agents so that they can gain access to people’s homes,” the premier said.

He said the teams will be wearing reflector vests that clearly identify them. Before the field agents can start screening and testing, they will announce themselves by loud-hailing and also announce in the media where possible, in order to create community awareness.

Premier Sihle Zikalala andother leaders sang the same tune on the lockdown rules, saying people should not think that they are doing the police any favours by adhering to the regulations. “It is your responsibility to protect your health,” he said.

Mayor Thobekile Maphumulo, who is the co-chair of the district command council for Covid-19 in uMgungundlovu, said people must remember that a lockdown is not a holiday to socialise.

“We are aware that in our culture we normally don’t postpone weddings, or even when someone has died, but we are under siege so we have to change the way we do things before this virus wipes us out. Don’t wait until someone close to you dies before you change your behaviour.”

Zikalala said: “We are also concerned about the reports that police and soldiers are going into people’s homes and beating them up.

“That is completely wrong and it should not happen.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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