Gauteng Premier David Makhura says the Covid-19 storm has hit the province and it can’t be avoided.
Makhura was speaking at BMW South Africa in Midrand on Monday, where he attended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the car manufacturer, along with the German government. Gauteng Department of Health MEC Bandile Masuku was also at the signing, which will see over 700 additional beds given to identified hospitals across the province.
The signing took place during a virtual Skype meeting and was joined by guests from Munich in Germany as well as Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
BMW South Africa CEO Tim Abbott said 200 000 masks were currently being manufactured in Munich and would be shipped to Gauteng to assist the department. Abbott said eight hospitals across Gauteng will be upgraded and supported.
Makhura said the province had already been working on placing over 2 000 additional beds in its key hospitals in the north, south, west and centre of the province.
He added that the memorandum would also see additional personal protective equipment (PPE) being provided to healthcare facilities. These would be given to hospitals such as George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Jubilee, Bronkhorspruit and other clinics across the province.
Makhura said there would be challenges as the country enters the storm, especially the opening of schools, restaurants and other entertainment areas. He said the province was looking at all possibilities to deal with the challenges, including consulting with Mkhize and the national health department.
“We are doing everything to ensure that we slow down the spread, but we overcome in the end. I want to use this opportunity to say that government, in partnership with the private sector, can only do so much. A lot more can be done by ordinary people in the communities themselves,” he said.
He urged the public to change their social behaviour, to maintain physical distancing and also to wear their masks. Makhura said it was difficult to keep the economy closed for all, and urged all businesses to ensure there were measures in place to reduce the spread of the virus.
“Small businesses that are open cannot be cluster outbreaks. We don’t want to open a business today and shut it tomorrow. We don’t want our schools to be points of outbreaks. We don’t want to be opening and closing schools. We can only do so if we take all the precautions.”
Speaking on behalf of the health department, Makhura said communities should brace themselves for the peak – but it should not be viewed as a tragedy. He said the province was fortunate that the active cases were not necessarily in need of medical attention.
He said the department continued to monitor the rising cases in healthcare facilities. Health MEC Masuku added that it was important to note the people succumbing to the virus were the elderly and those with comorbidities.
“As we are here today to witness an important opportunity, where we are signing an MOU between the Department of Health, GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation) and BMW, I must say that that storm has arrived in Gauteng as we speak. And when we say that storm is here, we are saying it will take all of us to weather the storm,” Makhura said.
The multimillion-rand investment by the car manufacturer is part of the strategic public private partnership between the province and the private sector to transform the healthcare system beyond Covid-19. The manufacturer will also be donating ambulances.