There are growing concerns that the Eastern Cape is a ticking bomb amid the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, which might spiral out of control in the province because the majority of its inhabitants reside in cramped informal settlements or are uninformed in the rural areas.
This is according to Jane Cowley, the DA’s health spokesperson in the province.
Cowly said it was impossible to reveal the extent to which Covid-19 had spread through the province.
She said more testing needed to be done to accurately identify patients with the virus, which is a critical step in preventing the virus from spreading.
By Thursday at least 15 people had tested positive for Covid-19 in the Eastern Cape. The patients were spread across the province, including in rural areas.
“In a province with an estimated population of 7.3 million people, the majority of whom live in close proximity in informal settlements, with limited access to basic services and healthcare, it is vital that the province gets ahead of the disease.
“Alarmingly, as provincial cases are being identified, they are spread across the province, with new cases of local transmission indicating that the disease is already in our communities and that there is no centralised hot spot for the virus,” Cowley said.
The DA said there was an urgent need to speed up results of those who have been tested.
Cowley said taking too long to release test results would lead to rapid spread of the virus.
“Many people under investigation may not feel the urgent need to self-isolate until such time that the results are made known, which could be catastrophic in terms of viral spread.”
She said the DA welcomed the additional mobile testing station in Port Elizabeth.
“I will be writing to Premier [Oscar Mabuyane] to request his urgent intervention to ensure that the backlog of outstanding provincial tests be prioritised and to see what the provincial government can do to help expedite bringing the Port Elizabeth testing facility online,” Cowley said.
Judy Ngoloyi, the spokesperson for Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, said they had partnered with Nelson Mandela University to assist with research in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus in the province.
“This is the beginning of a partnership between the provincial government and institutions of higher learning. The aim is to support each other in campaigns where the Nelson Mandela University will assist in many aspects, such as research on Covid-19, as well as the production of sanitisers and masks.
“Part of the partnership with the university is that it’s Missionvale Campus will assist with space for quarantine should the department run short of places,” she said.
Mabuyane said the province was tracing more than 350 people who were suspected of being potential carriers.
“We have already found 120 of those people. What this is telling us is that the virus is spreading in the province. It is almost spread across all districts now,” he said.
Mabuyane said many people had come forward for the tests that are currently being rolled out, which he said was encouraging.
The premier acknowledged that those in rural areas and townships were not informed about the virus.
“We picked this up during the days of social grants payout when we were telling people about social distancing, which was difficult to manage as people could not adhere to the 1.6m distance between them and next person.
“We don’t want to bury people for something that could have been prevented. People must therefore respect the law and listen when they are told to stay at home and wash their hands,” Mabuyane said.