The Eastern Cape will move to level 4 of lockdown with the rest of the country – but with more stringent measures.
There had been suggestions that the province, given the surge of people testing positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus, should remain on level 5 – the most stringent level of the lockdown – until things were under control.
There were also fears about two funerals that took place last month – in Port St Johns under the OR Tambo district and in Zwide in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Officials were concerned that more people could be infected if the province rushed into level 4.
But the office of the premier reassured the public this week that the move to level 4 would be much tighter and things would be done differently to contain the virus.
The decision to move to level 4 was done in line with the need to reopen the economy in the province which had suffered immeasurable damage as a result of the lockdown regulations.
“Premier Lubabalo Mabuyane says the movement of the Eastern Cape to level 4 will be done under strict conditions aimed at curbing transmission of the virus that might come with the easing of restrictions.
“The provincial government will beef up the management of the lockdown in areas of the province that have high Covid-19 infections.
This includes increased law enforcement visibility, the wearing of cloth masks at all times when people leave their homes, and ensuring that all work places implement occupational health and safety regulations aimed at ensuring a safe environment for the workers,” said Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha, the premier’s spokesperson.
He said national and provincial government departments would work with all sectors of the economy to ensure compliance with the applicable regulations to effectively minimise transmission of the virus during level 4 of the national lockdown.
Companies should expect regular inspections from the department of labour.
Sicwetsha said they were pleading with employers, especially big manufacturing businesses, to work with the government to reopen of their businesses and the economy.
The Eastern Cape government had drafted its former health MEC, Dr Bevan Goqwana and a former superintendent-general, Dr Silva Pillay, to provide clinical advice to the OR Tambo and the combined Sarah Baartman and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro joint operations centres to try to improve the province’s efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The OR Tambo district and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro had become the epicentres of the virus in the province because of the funerals.
The village of Machibini in Port St Johns was reported last week to have had at least 40 people test positive after they had attended the funeral at Majola village.
Some, including the mayor of Port St Johns, had called for the small town to be shut down and for Machibini to be placed under quarantine.
Many who attended a funeral in Zwide township in Port Elizabeth had also tested positive for the virus.
The region had the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the province, with 302 cases reported by Thursday.
Machibini had 57 positive cases by Thursday night.
The other areas with high infections in the province included Buffalo City Metro with 157 and Chris Hani District with 92.
The province had 13 deaths by Thursday night; 46 people had recovered. There had been 647 confirmed coronavirus cases in the province since it recorded its first case on March 21.
As of Thursday the figures nationally stood at 5 647, an increase of 297 cases from Wednesday.
Sicwetsha said Goqwana and Pillay would complement the team of medical experts that had been sent to the province by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
“With vast medical and administrative expertise under their belts, both doctors join a team of medical experts employed by the provincial government and assigned by Mkhize,” said Sicwetsha.
The team includes professors Rod Walker and Rosie Dorrington from Rhodes University and professor Francis Hyera from Walter Sisulu University.
“From this team the provincial government continues getting the best expert advice on the different aspects of the pandemic to inform our response strategies,” said Sicwetsha.