The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Northern Cape has called on Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize to urgently visit the province “amidst deepening concern about the provincial health department’s unpreparedness to manage the coronavirus pandemic”.
DA MPL Andrew Louw said the party was making this call following a media report that reportedly exposed “the absence of contact-tracing Kimberley”.
“According to a media report that was aired on national television this morning, the family of a 31-year-old Roodepan resident, who tested positive for Covid-19 last week, has yet to be tested for the virus. While the 31-year-old has apparently been hospitalised, the family of eight, including his parents who are both in their sixties and are at further increased risk given that they reportedly suffer from hypertension, diabetes and heart problems, have not been contacted by the health department or even been advised on isolating,” Louw said, adding that this is “very worrying indeed”.
Louw said the province had “gotten off to a dismally slow start” for testing and now appears to be neglecting direct contacts of positive patients, which poses a risk to their own health and that of the community.
“The DA already called for contact tracing teams to be put in place during our debate on the state of the province address at the beginning of March this year, before South Africa even reported its first case of coronavirus. This was after it emerged in the latest data presented by the provincial health department, indicating that emergency outbreak response teams were not active in the province and that environmental officers were assisting with communicable disease control activities.
“We have since heard of hundreds of tracers being appointed to trace contacts of coronavirus positive cases but we fail to see the impact hereof,” Louw said.
The DA MPL said time should not be wasted on tracing contacts, especially a patient’s direct family members and questioned how the provincial department of health would manage to trace the contacts who were less easy to trace if it could not trace this particular family.
“The current situation cannot be allowed to continue without inviting the coronavirus to spread rapidly and uncontrollably in the Northern Cape, overwhelming the already under-resourced and ill-equipped state health services in the province.
“We, therefore, appeal to Dr Mkhize to visit the Northern Cape. We suspect that what he will find here will be similar to what he found in the Eastern Cape, in the form of an ill-prepared provincial government response to Covid-19.
“The coronavirus won’t wait until we are ready to deal with it, it is an opportunistic disease and must be managed now, with a zero-tolerance approach towards its further spread.”
(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)