The hard work continues to ensure that Western Cape moves forward safely
Today, we move into Alert level one of a nationwide lockdown that started almost six months ago in South Africa. It has also been almost 200 days since President Cyril Ramaphosa first announced the State of Disaster in the country.
As a provincial government, we did not waste a day of the hard lockdown to prepare our healthcare system for the peak of infections that were to come.
Our top priority was to ensure that were able to provide appropriate care for all those who needed when they needed it.
Within the first 100 days, we built field hospitals in Khayelitsha, at the CTICC (our Hospital of Hope), and at Brackengate, we erected testing and triage centres across the province and recruited additional healthcare workers. We ensured that we had adequate medical supplies of PPE and oxygen, and launched a province-wide, comprehensive hotspot strategy that used an ‘all-of-government’ approach to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.
But we also realised that we were not just facing a health crisis. The impact on the hard lockdown on the economy was catastrophic. This resulted in the emergence of a second pandemic of hunger and unemployment which also needed our attention. That is why we simultaneously launched major humanitarian initiatives to support those most in need, and also lobbied national government for the safe reopening of the economy in order to save jobs.
We said from the beginning that this was never a zero-sum game, and that we can fight Covid-19, while also allowing businesses to operate, saving jobs and livelihoods.
Since our last 100-day update on 4 July, the province has experienced its peak of infections, and we had adequate beds and supplies to provide care to every person who needed it during this time. The province has now recorded over 100 000 recoveries and has less than 3000 active recorded cases of COVID-19 in the province.
But even with the peak behind us, the work has continued – with a combined focus on both our healthcare response and on ensuring that we could re-open safely to avoid a second pandemic of unemployment, starvation and hungry.
Since our 100 days update, the province has closed two of its field hospitals at the CTICC and in Khayelitsha. Between them, these two facilities provided care to over 1700 patients in the Cape Town metro.
Khayelitsha, once one of the sub-districts with the highest number of infections, now only has 109 recorded active infections.
The Brackengate facility remains operational and has taken on the Hospital of Hope name.
Some regions of the province have experienced their peaks later than the metro, and we have since July opened the 63 bed Sonstraal hospital ward in Paarl, converted an unused boiler room in Vredendal into a COVID-19 ward and, with funding from the Gift of the Givers, fitted out a 60 bed ward at the Mitchell’s Plain hospital. All of these facilities will be legacy projects which will expand the hospital system capacity after COVID-19.
Throughout our response to COVID-19, the Western Cape Department of Health has continued delivering medicines to stable, chronic patients at their homes. This has helped to decongest our healthcare facilities, while at the same ensuring that people were able to stay safe at home. Through that project, almost 600 000 medicine parcels have been delivered to patients at their homes. This project has been so successful that we will be continuing with it beyond COVID-19.
The Red Dot Lite Transport service was initially launched by the Department of Transport and Public Works during the hard lockdown to transport healthcare workers home after late shifts, when public transport was not available. This service continues to operate. Earlier this month, the service recorded a major milestone, having covered over 1 million kilometres, carrying over 70 000 passengers cumulatively. The service also transports patients to and from quarantine and isolation facilities. To date, over 10 000 people have been transported to and from facilities in both metro and non-metro areas.
Our healthcare experts also gathered data which detailed which comorbidities presented the highest risk. This data showed us that diabetics were at the greatest risk for becoming seriously ill and dying. On 17 July, we launched the VECTOR project (Virtual Emergency Care Tactical Operation). The project ensures that when a diabetic patient tests positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health makes daily contact with them. For high risk diabetics, we also encourage early admission to hospital to monitor their health. Early results of this project are very positive. For cases assigned to the VECTOR team, the mortality rate is very low at around 4.5%, compared with a mortality rate of about 28% prior to this life-saving intervention.
There are no reliable tools to predict a resurgence of cases, or the location or timing of such a resurgence and so our focus is on ongoing surveillance to detect and understand emerging trends.
The Department of Health in the province has worked with the NHLS on routine serological testing which detects antibodies of the virus, using samples from pregnant women and people seeking HIV care. The results of this testing have given us a broad indication of COVID-19 transmission to date in large parts of the province and further testing will give us a clearer picture of infection trends going forward.
We have also expanded our testing criteria in the metro in order to ensure ongoing monitoring of the virus. In addition to the previous groups identified under the risk adjusted strategy (people in hospital, those over 50, those with comorbidities, and healthcare workers), we are now also testing: pre-op, asymptomatic patients, natural cause deaths at home, public sector “essential” workers with symptoms (ie SAPS, correctional services etc), incarcerated people with symptoms, school learners and staff with symptoms and in workplaces where workers are experiencing symptoms.
With the peak now behind us, the healthcare focus has turned to rolling out and ramping up those healthcare services that have been impacted by COVID-19. These include immunization, TB testing and treatment as well as other services such as HIV care, surgeries and women’s health. Primary healthcare facilities, together with community healthcare workers are rolling out services to ensure that we catch up.
The Western Cape Government has committed to clean governance and transparency in procurement and was the first province to release a report detailing PPE procurement. The second edition of the report now also details all COVID-19 related procurement.
I continue to chair twice weekly cabinet meetings attended by the City of Cape Town, district Mayors and as well as representatives from SAPS and law enforcement.
During these extended cabinet briefings, we receive weekly updates on all the hotspot interventions across the province.
The impact of the lockdown on jobs, business and the livelihoods of thousands of people in the Western Cape cannot be underestimated. This is why during our August bosberaad, the Cabinet adopted the position that all businesses which could reopen safely, should be allowed to do so.
During the bosberaad, we also agreed to focus our recovery plan on three key aspects: jobs, safety and dignity and well-being. A follow-up bosberaad was held in which we engaged with some business leaders, discussed ways to further reduce costly red tape and focused quick-win interventions which could be achieved over the next 100 days.
In a bid to support some of the major job creation industries in the Western Cape, the province has actively lobbied the National Government for the reopening of both local and international tourism, alcohol sales and the George Airport, and lobbied for the easing of the curfew.
Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier has also written to national government regarding issues creating backlogs at our ports and at the Deeds Office, which were contributing to further economic blockage.
The Department of Economic Development and Tourism in the province has provided business safety kits to small businesses and informal traders.
The Department has also received over 1570 complaints regarding business compliance and finalized almost 95% of these.
At the end of August, we announced the launch of our “We Are Open” domestic tourism campaign to urge South Africans to take advantage and explore the beauty and diversity of the many affordable and world-class attractions that Cape Town and the Western Cape has to offer.
We have launched a new online system launched to make it easier for the 5 000 tourist guides in the Western Cape to register, renew and update their details.
We launched a Tourism Product Development Fund which will make R5 million in funding available for tourism products that address gaps and opportunities identified by the draft Tourism Blueprint 2030.
To support our creative industry, the Department of the Premier provided funding for Cape Town in Concert, an online event featuring some of the province’s top musicians, held in August.
We launched the #GoDigitalWC webinar series which brings leading to present ideas and advice on how businesses can adapt and innovate during the Covid-19 crisis. We have hosted over 13 webinars on subjects ranging from eCommerce to digital marketing, crowdfunding and more
Humanitarian Response and relief funding:
The Department of Agriculture has provided over 1800 kits to households across the province to allow them to grow their own food gardens. This will not only provide them with an ongoing resource for nutritional food, but those that grow extra, will be able to sell their produce.
School feeding has continued throughout the lockdown period in the Western Cape. The Western Cape was the only province in the country to do so and was therefore the only province not included in a July High Court order directing all provinces to resume the school feeding scheme.
A community Economic Recovery Project has been designed to support up to 150 spaza shops and food suppliers in local communities by issuing electronic vouchers to local community kitchens to buy their ingredients at these stores- helping to ensure that humanitarian relief and economic relief go hand in hand in these areas.
The Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) received over 1000 applications for its Arts, Culture and Heritage relief funding and over 100 applications from sports federations for sport and recreation relief funding. Transfers have already been made to some applicants and others are currently still in process.
Our hotspot interventions have been focused on bringing about behaviour change to encourage mask wearing, social distancing and hygiene measures to reduce infections and to bolster the COVID-19 response.
We have used EPWP workers, neighbourhood watches, Chrysalis graduates and volunteers from faith-based organizations to conduct queue management at public facilities, to promote mask wearing and to share information on the golden rules of hygiene.
We continue to roll out communications aimed at behaviour change. These include the distribution of posters and pamphlets, radio slots, loud hailing, and branding of taxis.
Working together with local municipalities, and law enforcement, we have conducted hundreds of compliance visits to public buildings and spaces, transport interchanges and businesses in hotspots across the province.
Public spaces are regularly sanitized.
We have distributed thousands of masks during mask activations in communities across the province.
Teams have worked closely with old aged homes in each hotspot to provide support and training. The Department of Social Development has re-prioritised funding to ensure that various services and facilities (both funded and unfunded) are equipped with the necessary resources, to prevent further spread of the COVID-19. As a result, we are seeing declining infections in old aged homes.
Education and Early Childhood Development:
The Department of Education has supported the safe return of learners and staff to schools so that teaching and learning can continue.
All grades returned to school last month and each school has a unique, Temporary Revised Education Plan (TREP) to manage the 1.5 m physical distance requirement, so grades are attending on alternate days, weeks or using some other model.
The Department has also brought the Schools Evaluation Authority on board to assess schools for their compliance with COVID-19 protocols, the implementation of their TREPs, the leadership of principals and school management teams as well as monitoring the psycho-social impact of the pandemic.
The Department of Social Development in the province re-prioritised funding of R10.2 million to support ECDs to procure PPE to ensure their safe re-opening.
Looking ahead, over the next 100 days the Western Cape Government will be focusing on developing a recovery plan so that we can move forward as a province.
Crucially, we will be focusing on ways to save jobs and create new opportunities, ensuring that the people of this province have access to services that provide them with dignity and ensure their well-being, and our continued focus on safety.
Our plan to move forward must however be coupled with a continued and ongoing focus on preventing COVID-19, through mask wearing, hygiene measures and social distancing. This is where every resident has an important role to play. So please, let’s keep up with all the new behaviours we have learnt since March, and let’s move forward, safely, together.
Source: Government of South Africa