Covid-19: Outbreaks at supermarkets a concern for Western Cape government

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(Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Local transmissions of the coronavirus are now cropping up among supermarket workers in the Western Cape, prompting the province's head of health to stress the importance of only going to the shops when it is absolutely necessary. 

"We can really say a pattern that has emerged over the last week [is] a lot of our cases that we found [are] new has been through supermarkets," said Dr Keith Cloete during a digital press conference on Thursday. 

He did not name the supermarkets, but News24 has reported cases at Pick n Pay in Somerset West, a Shoprite in Athlone and in Bothasig, and Checkers at Bayside Mall in Table View. 

The supermarkets have stated they are monitoring the situation very closely and are following World Health Organisation guidelines.

Cloete said that gatherings must be avoided.

Protocols

He added that, after observing how the shops are deep cleaned, and what the shops' protocols are, the department is also planning to meet supermarket owners to discuss further measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Supermarkets are among the few businesses allowed to stay open, with most offering sanitisers, and limiting the numbers of people inside the shops.

He stressed that people must avoid gatherings at shops during the lockdown. They must only leave their homes to fetch essential items, wear a mask in public, and wash hands thoroughly to minimise the risk of contracting the virus.

Cloete expressed concern over the mugging of a screening team on Wednesday.  

He would not say where this occurred, but said that the team could now only continue with a police escort. 

Extra quarantine sites

"Like our ambulance attacks, I just can't see why anybody would mug a team coming to ask questions to help people and to ask about testing for Covid-19." 

In the meantime, another of the province's health experts on the frontline, Dr Wayne Smith, said plans are under way to build extra quarantine sites for those who test positive and their close contacts, especially if they cannot isolate where they live.

The country is braced for more cases. 

The provincial government is also securing extra beds in private facilities.

The province's Premier Alan Winde said that intergovernmental relations had never been better, with everybody working together to minimise the risk of the virus spreading. 

"It's like a war. We're all on the same side here." 

He said that the ban on selling alcohol had also drastically decreased crime, as well as trauma cases at hospitals.

He asked people to thank essential service workers whenever they can for their valuable work. 

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