Any person testing positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus in North West will not be allowed to self-isolate, but instead will be placed in a monitored quarantine facility, the provincial government has resolved.
The decision to move all those who test positive to four facilities across the province was prompted after several cases of failed self-isolation which pose a high risk to spread the virus in the province which had reported a total nine positive cases so far.
One of the recorded cases of failed self-isolation is one that saw a wild search, ending late on Friday night, for a Rustenburg man whose live-in partner had fallen ill, sought medical care and tested positive. She was unable to give police details of the whereabouts of her partner.
According to the provincial health department, the man was traced and found in Mahikeng, attending a funeral and taken to Tshepong hospital in Klerksdorp for medical care.
Madoda Sambatha, the provincial Health MEC and convener of the province’s Covid-19 task team, expressed serious concerns that most of the people instructed to be in self-isolation were not complying and thus increasing risks of spreading the deadly virus.
Sambatha yesterday said government was identifying guesthouses, lodges and hotels that would be turned into government quarantine facilities in the four provincial districts.
“The problem is that people who test positive but are asymptomatic or not hospital candidates do not adhere to instruction of self-isolation. We cannot afford to have such people moving around uncontrollably any more. People are misbehaving and we cannot leave them. That is carrying a high potential of escalating numbers of new infection cases internally and could lead us to a point where we’re unable to cope. We don’t want to get to that point, hence our resolution,” he said.
“We’ll put them in our facilities, we’ll feed and take care of them and have security around them. People are misbehaving and this calls for us to force them to otherwise take all other precautionary measures. Otherwise efforts to prevent the spread would be in vain.”
Sambatha said there was another case in Bojanala district, which covers Rustenburg, where a person who was asymptomatic went to test and while awaiting results decided to go to work. Results came back positive.
“It is cases like the two in Rustenburg that people did not adhere to self-isolation. That has resulted in an increased burden for government because we have no choice but to deal with those people who came into contact with the infected person. We have to track everyone they may have made contact with at work and the funeral in Mahikeng and elsewhere. In another case in Dr Kenneth Kaunda district we had a case of a man who was in self-isolation at a guesthouse and he was traced to Ekurhuleni in Gauteng when checked upon on Friday,” he said.
The forced quarantine decision was to be implemented “so that every person tested positive but not a hospital case is placed in organised and managed isolation for 14 days”. “This will have financial implications, but our view is that it’s worth every cent rather. Better than leaving positive people to be on the loose where they fail to adhere to self-isolation orders and infect others.”
On the first day of Friday’s lockdown, a bus transporting students from the Western Cape to North West and Limpopo was stopped in Mahikeng. The bus had already dropped other students in Taung and Vryburg on Friday. “It was decided that the bus would not proceed any further. It was sent back to the Western Cape while we took over the transportation of the remaining students to Zeerust, Rustenburg and Jane Furse in Limpopo,” Sambatha said. “A decision was taken that police must open a case against the university, the bus company and the driver.”
Sambatha acknowledged that the lack of public transportation – due to government’s restrictions on taxis because of the lockdown – has had an impact on the movement of healthcare workers to and from work, as well as people needing to buy essential goods.
“Due to this, workers found themselves without transport outside of the taxis’ operation time in the morning. Taxi operators are using this and other issues like limited operation times and social distancing to bargain to operate throughout the day and demand payment for empty seats.”
Sambatha said those who do not own vehicles, especially people from rural areas, who needed to travel to and from their nearest towns to shop were also finding themselves stranded at taxi ranks without transport after shopping.
Shortages of essentials like sanitisers, masks and rubber gloves among others, were issues the province was battling with, just like other areas, Sambatha added.