The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, a hotspot in the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in the Eastern Cape, is pulling out all the stops to prevent the spread of the virus.
The metro has been identified as an area that needs urgent attention.
The province has recorded the highest number of new Covid-19 deaths as it battles what could soon be the second wave of the deadly pandemic if things do not change drastically.
The Eastern Cape’s extended provincial coronavirus command centre has made a decision to embark on mass testing, isolation and contact quarantine as a way of slowing the spread of infections in the metro.
Darlene de Vos, district manager for health in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, said it had been noted that people were not adhering to protocols in terms of preventing infection.
“We’ve intensified our risk communication strategy by ensuring that we partner with every single platform available to us to spread the message of prevention by practising precautions and adhering to the regulations,” she said.
She said the command centre was continually having to explain to people who were reluctant to self-isolate why it was crucial for them to do so.
The department of health was also working in close partnership with the Nelson Mandela Bay metro and the police, as well as the business chamber, to go out on an enforcement drive.
Antigen testing was also launched on Wednesday in the metro by the province’s MEC of health, Sindiswa Gomba.
The testing is conducted by National Health Laboratory Services in four mobile laboratories that move around hotspot areas within the metro.
“The advantage of antigen testing is that it shows us the results within 30 minutes, so there’s no delay in a diagnosis of Covid-19. This makes it easy to immediately remove people from the rest of the community in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus,” explained De Vos.
She said there was also a testing site at the field hospital.
“In terms of improving capacity in our healthcare facilities, we’ve managed to appoint nursing personnel for Dora Nginza Hospital [in Zwide township, Port Elizabeth], where 100 additional beds were made available this week.
“We’ve also moved the casualty area for Covid-19-positive patients to a bigger space within the hospital to make room available.
“In addition, two doctors from Doctors Without Borders have been stationed at Dora Nginza Hospital. The plan now is to open the basement of Livingstone Hospital [in Korsten, Port Elizabeth] to accommodate 73 Covid-19 beds there.”
De Vos said that, at this stage, there was no talk of going to a higher alert lockdown level, but she called on people to play their part because government alone could not prevent the spread of the virus – it was a collective responsibility.
“I’m optimistic and believe that our community will assist us, because they understand the seriousness of what we’re facing,” she said.
As of yesterday, there were 5 305 active cases in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, while cumulative deaths recorded there to date stood at 1 521.
“Some people seem to think that being on lockdown alert level 1 means that Covid-19 itself is on level 1. That isn’t the case. You don’t get different levels of the virus. In fact, it seems that the presentation of people with Covid-19 during this resurgence is worse than it was during the first period of infections earlier in the year.”
She said that, over the past seven-day period, 5 761 people had tested positive in the area, with at least 400 active cases being recorded every day.
“For example, on Friday, we recorded the highest number for this resurgence period, at 937 active new cases, diagnosed by both public and private laboratories,” said De Vos.
When asked whether the province was seeing a second wave of the virus, De Vos said: “We’re not there yet. At present, it’s still a resurgence, but there are indications that it’s moving towards being classified as a second wave, especially in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.”