Virus ‘no big deal for locals’

Rehman Asad/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pietermaritzburg is seeing a sharp spike in the number of Covid-19 cases because residents are “shopping, partying, socialising and braaing together” in contravention of lockdown regulations.

The areas hardest hit thus far include Imbali, Northdale, Orient Heights and Haniville.

Senior Department of Health and municipal sources confirmed on Friday that they have been inundated with cases in the past week because “residents do not follow rules and wait to be policed”.

They want a strong message to be sent out — behave as if this is lockdown level 5. “The cases are picking up extensively now in all areas, especially Imbali, Northdale, Orient Heights and Haniville. Our initial areas of concern were Hilton and Howick but this has rapidly moved to these suburbs because people are just not adhering to the rules. People are shopping with no end to it. We are finding cluster cases of families and social groups testing positive because they have been having get-togethers and braais. People are just not taking Covid 19 seriously,” said the Department of Health official.

He said they were testing more than 180 direct contacts a day, with teams working “all over Pietermaritzburg from morning until late at night, not even having time to eat”.

The source said, however, that the department had stopped testing randomly because of a shortage of test kits. He said they were only testing those who had been in direct contact with an infected person. “This is going to lead to an even bigger problem because people are going to be infected, and not know because they do not have the money for private testing or don’t bother to go for testing and continue with their lives as normal.”

The municipal official said “everyday in Pietermaritzburg, especially the CBD area, was chaos”.

“Despite constant enforcement with the various departments and SAPS, people are just not serious about their health. They are all willing to take a chance to continue with life as normal but the consequences are going to be disastrous,” said the official.

He said already several businesses had been hit hard with more than 40 employees testing positive, while the CBD remained a “huge area of concern” for them. He added that there was no social distancing, wearing of masks and sanitising. Another area of concern, he said, was the impact of more grades returning to school on July 6.

He said they had seen many cases from schools already and that protocols put in place with those pupils returning from the Eastern Cape (which already has a high infection rate) were not being adhered to.

“We have several learners living in boarding houses in Northdale. Those owners gave us an undertaking that the learners would all be screened at the City clinics before they returned to school. But this has not happened. We have restricted the number of learners sharing bedrooms but this too is not being adhered to,” said the source.

As of Friday, uMgungundlovu District had 750 confirmed cases, 218 recoveries and two deaths. KZN has 6 590 positive cases with 3 287 active cases, 3 197 recoveries and 106 deaths thus far.

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