The Eastern Cape health department got a shot in the arm on Thursday in its effort to fight the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the province when it received 110 isolation pods donated by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
Each of the isolation pods, built of glass and aluminium, has space for a hospital bed, medical equipment and can accommodate Covid-19 patients who require hospitalisation.
The pods were received at the Mthatha Airport hangar by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane and Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba.
DBSA programme manager Bonny Duda said the units could be reused even post Covid-19 as they were built to be multipurpose.
“Post Covid-19, there are other usages that you can identify which you could use these isolation pods for,” he said.
Duda said DBSA had also committed R150 million to supporting the South African government in the form of personal protective equipment [PPE] as well as isolation pod screening and testing units, which have been distributed to various local municipalities around the country.
Duda said they had already distributed prefabricated structures to four districts in the Eastern Cape – Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo, Chris Hani and Amathole. These structures are used for screening people for symptoms. The screening units, just like the isolation pods, also come with full PPE.
“We also have ventilators that we are going to be donating. The handing over of the isolation pods today [Thursday] marks a demonstration of the commitment that DBSA made in the past month to support government in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The isolation pods resemble a relocatable hospital room... Each pod is fully equipped with a hospital bed, linen and the necessary PPE, along with a clean air protective system and lockable door. The airflow system pulls the infected air particles through a negative air pressure system, which then flows into an air extraction system that kills any bacteria,” he said.
Gomba said the donation by DBSA was a welcome gesture.
“As the health department, we appreciate these pods and we are looking at distributing them in four districts… We still impress upon our people to adhere to the regulations so that the surge itself does not kill us. Let us maintain the momentum and make it a point to prove the Eastern Cape has the ability to deal with Covid-19 and get over it,” she said.
Mabuyane also welcomed the donation of the isolation pods during a small handing over ceremony in Mthatha.
“We wish to welcome the investment made by DBSA to our province. These 110 isolation pods will augment our efforts in fighting Covid-19, save more lives and prevent the spread [of the virus], particularly in our healthcare facilities,” said Mabuyane.
The premier’s remarks come as the Eastern Cape, which is one of the Covid-19 hotspots in the country, battles the spread of the virus.
With 84 362 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, the province had the fourth highest number of Covid-19-positive cases after Gauteng (202 011 cases), KwaZulu-Natal (107 271) cases and the Western Cape (103 210).
Also, the Eastern Cape had the third-highest number of Covid-19 deaths, at 2 670, behind the Western Cape and Gauteng.
Mabuyane said some of the isolation pods would be stationed at the airport hangar as it was going to be used as a field hospital.
He agreed that the pods would benefit the people of the Eastern Cape beyond the pandemic.
“This donation comes at a time when new infections are subsiding and recoveries are increasing, meaning that we are close to winning this war. As we said before, this is not the time to let our guard down. There is no vaccine yet for the virus, therefore we remain vigilant as the virus is still potent and deadly,” the premier said.
“The recoveries and decline in new infections are urging us into reinforcing our health capacity to prepare for whatever challenge this virus might throw at us in the next few months.”