Government has called on the military to be deployed in Gauteng.
The inland province has surpassed the Covid-19 numbers observed during the first and second waves due to mass non-compliance with regulations implemented to curb the spread of the virus.
That is according to acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.
Briefing the media on government’s efforts in the fight against Covid-19 on Friday, she raised concern about people protesting in large numbers, running without masks and not sticking to regulations that limit outdoor gatherings to 100 people.
“We have requested additional capacity to assist Gauteng in terms of the military to move into the province,” the minister explained, adding that the military health personnel would allow for additional beds to be made available. These “beds have been held because there was no human capital”.
SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members will also assist with mass Covid-19 screening and testing, as well as contact tracing.
There was nationwide military deployment when lockdown was first implemented in March 2020. Officers manned interprovincial roadblocks and patrolled the streets to ensure compliance.
Their deployment was marred with violence.
The family of a man from Mpumalanga who was allegedly shot dead by a soldier enforcing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions is suing Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula for R145.1 million.
Molebatseng Dilebo (38) was shot dead near Bushbuckridge on July 4 2020.
Collins Khosa was allegedly beaten to death by soldiers in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, during the initial hard lockdown. He died on April 10 2020.
While implicated members were exonerated by a military board of inquiry, eight witnesses told the Independent Police Investigative Directorate that they saw SANDF members assaulting Khosa hours before he died due to blunt force trauma to the head.
Burden on health system
Gauteng’s health system is taking strain. Private hospitals are at capacity, with limited beds available at state facilities.
Healthcare workers are also facing mass pressure.
While a 500-bed Covid facility has opened at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and a mining hospital in Carletonville has been refurbished to accommodate Covid-19 patients, City Press has been reliably informed that both are not operating at full capacity.
The Covid-19 facility at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital has strict admission criteria and is not suitable for unstable patients.
Referring doctors are required to complete a form which excludes Covid-19 patients with severe disease with evidence of respiratory failure, severe non-Covid medical disease necessitating acute management, patients requiring specialist investigation or work-up, surgical patients and psychiatric patients.
Doctors tell City Press that this is largely due to the location of the ABT facility in relation to surgical and radiology wards.
They explain that the challenge lies in transferring an unstable patient on a gurney across the hospital premises from the ABT facility to the main hospital building.
The Bara500 facility was identified as a replacement for the Nasrec field hospital which accommodated more than 1 000 patients.
It is fully equipped with ventilators and comprises 20 wards, a reception and triage area. Each ward has its own ventilation unit and it also includes isolation units. The hospital also has back-up power solutions that use batteries and diesel generators, and uses a large bulk oxygen reticulation infrastructure.
It took Enza Construction eight months to complete the facility at a reported cost of R550 million.
Kubayi-Ngubane revealed that Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital had 1 000 beds, but these remain off limits as the hospital has not reopened since being gutted by a fire in April.
Government hopes that outstanding compliance issues can be resolved in the “coming weeks” to allow for the reopening of the hospital.
In the past week, South Africa recorded 63 993 new Covid-19 cases.
A massive spike was recorded on June 16, with 13 246 new infections being recorded.
According to the National Institute For Communicable Diseases (NICD) daily hospital surveillance report, 4 740 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised in Gauteng. This accounts for 53.6% of all Covid-19 hospital admissions in the country.
Of these cases, 3 449 are admitted at private hospitals and 1 291 at public hospitals.
According to national data, as of June 18, 294 Covid-19 patients in Gauteng are in high care, 1 014 in the intensive care unit and the remaining 3 377 are being treated in the general ward.
The latest data reveal that a total of 464 Covid-19 patients in Gauteng are currently ventilated. This is down from 481 on Wednesday. A further 1 002 are on oxygen, up from 813 on Wednesday.
Kubayi-Ngubane said that while Gauteng was seeing the greatest spike in infections, “when we look at the numbers, we are seeing an upward trend across the provinces”, which is why President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nationwide tightening of lockdown restrictions.
To date, more than 2 million people have been vaccinated in South Africa.
Deputy director-general of health Nicholas Crisp says the limited availability of vaccines has constrained vaccination efforts.
The 300 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines which are earmarked for teachers arrived in the country early on Thursday evening. They will only be distributed after quality testing is completed. samples have been sent to the National Control Laboratory for Biological Products in Bloemfontein for testing.
The vaccination of South Africa’s 582 000 public and private school staff is due get to under way next week. Crisp confirmed that they would be vaccinated within 10 working days.
“All provincial health and education departments will focus on vaccinating educators in this period. The 300 000 doses are not enough, but, fortunately, the next consignment of vaccines is due next week. It is also on a short expiry date (August 11), which is why we are accelerating this programme over a short period of time.”
Immediately after the completion of the vaccination of teachers, the security cluster will be vaccinated, starting with police officers, Crisp revealed.
About 145 000 police members and 36 000 civilians helping police are due for vaccination.
Crisp said that the country would get an additional 2 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses soon.