The numerous coronavirus tests that were apparently “discarded” in the Eastern Cape along the N2 have elicited a sharp response.
Dr. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize tweeted his “disappointment” over the incident on Tuesday, saying a courier company was apparently involved. “We asked for these services to be suspended,” says Mkhize’s tweet.
People with Co-morbidities must continue to take their medication and try to get a multi month supply of medication. Where possible they should work from home, if not to seclude themselves at work. @Radio702— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) June 30, 2020
A passerby found several test kits, which apparently contained blood samples with the names and identity numbers of patients, on Monday along the road between East London and Mdantsane on the N2. Mkhize thanked the passer-by in his tweet that the incident had been reported.
Also dr. Thobile Mbengashe, head of the Eastern Cape health department, and Oscar Mabuyane, the Eastern Cape’s prime minister, strongly condemned the incident on Tuesday at a media conference in Bhisho.
Mbengashe says he is awaiting a report from the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) to get a better idea of what happened.
At the media conference, Mabuyane also provided feedback on the work being done by the provincial Covid 19 command council to help curb the spread of the virus.
Mabuyane admits the rise in infections causes sleepless nights. Over the past week, more than 1,000 new infections have been reported in the province, but Mabuyane also points out that the province has been doing a lot more tests in the past.
Because the province’s health system was overwhelmed, the board of command asked the national government for medical reinforcements, which included the deployment of the military’s medical team.
Mabuyane says the virus has hit its claws in the province’s medical workers. By Tuesday, 888 medical workers in both state and private health facilities had already tested positive for the virus. Covid-19 has already claimed the lives of 24 health workers in the Eastern Cape.
Mbengashe says one of the province’s biggest challenges is the lack of beds in dormitories.
According to Mabuyane, a procurement process is underway to make 4,000 additional hospital beds available to the province by setting up field hospitals, each with 500 beds, in the respective districts.
According to him, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) paid out R1.4 billion by June 27 to the temporary worker and employer relief scheme. More than 32,000 employers and more than 300,000 employees benefited from this.
The province is also doing renovations at 34 health facilities for Covid-19 patients. To this end, 42 contracts worth R222.8 million have been awarded to Eastern Cape contractors, which has so far created 500 jobs.
Of the projects, 20 have already been completed, while another 12 will be completed by the end of July and the rest are planned by the end of August.
Reopening of schools
At the same meeting, Fundile Gade, MEC for education in the province, said the department had made a request to the National Department of Basic Education to postpone the next planned phase-in of pupils at schools.
A questionnaire sent to schools in the province shows that more than half of schools are not ready for the next phase of phasing in.
Since the reopening of schools on June 8, 291 schools have been temporarily closed again, of which 200 schools are still closed.
According to Gade, the provincial education department also reported 26 deaths due to the virus, the majority of which are teachers with underlying illnesses.
He says due to rising infections in the province’s schools, talks have to be held at national level to reconsider the phasing-in planned for July 6.
He thinks not everyone can be blamed, especially on infrastructure challenges at schools. He hopes to highlight this point on discussions with the national department on Thursday.
Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the national department of basic education, did not immediately respond to inquiries.