With the COVID-19 outbreak in South Africa projected to peak around August, Gauteng – the country’s epicentre with 1 252 cases to date – is leaving no stone unturned in its preparations to fight the scourge.
On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa paid a visit to the sites identified as COVID-19 facilities in Gauteng. These include the quarantine facility at the Nasrec Expo Centre, Johannesburg Central Food Bank and Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital.
The President expressed confidence in the province’s efforts to ramp up its hospital bed capacity, screening efforts and measures to mitigate the socio-economic blow of the virus on the most vulnerable.
“I have been hugely impressed with the level of preparedness with regards to having a quarantine area…
“We have been saying that the country now needs to get very well-prepared because we are going to be reaching a peak somewhere later in August and September, where we will need lots of hospital beds.
“What I saw today is most impressive because we are ramping up to almost 10 000 beds here in Gauteng and we are also ramping up isolation places,” said the President.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura — together with Health MEC, Dr Bandile Masuku, and Acting Social Development MEC Panyaza Lesufi — took the President on a walkabout of the COVID-19 facilities.
At the quarantine and isolation facilities, the President witnessed the Health Department’s efforts to ensure that the sites are well equipped and medically efficient for treatment.
Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, which has 12 intensive care units, has ramped up its capacity to 100 ICUs in preparation to accommodate COVID-19 patients.
“In many ways, this hospital, through the COVID-19 crisis, is now being transformed to be ready for the NHI [National Health Insurance].
“We are putting the building blocks in place but at the same time, having properly trained staff being able to treat COVID-19 patients,” said the President.
Recognising the hard work and effort of the healthcare workers, the President expressed gratitude to those at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight.
“Our frontline health workers are the real foot soldiers that we have to fight against this invisible enemy and we thank them. The country can’t thank them enough. I will continue to thank them and recognise them for the excellent work that they are doing, putting themselves right at the epicentre of danger,” he said.
During the walkabout at the Johannesburg Central Food Bank in Booysens, the President was taken through the province’s painstaking efforts in the distribution of food parcels to those most in need.
“I was also taken to the food bank where the distribution of food parcels is happening in the most dignified way.
“They showed me where they are logistically making sure that food is well distributed to various distribution areas in the province, and that care is taken in having proper data of those who need the care and the food.
“The question of financial resources becomes easy when the province demonstrates that it is both innovative and foresighted and in many ways is working hard to make sure that it safeguards the health and lives of the people of this province,” said President Ramaphosa.
With Gauteng making use of technology in its fight against the pandemic, the President said this effort must be taken to other provinces.
“This hospital innovated a system through which health workers can treat people who are COVID-19 positive and still be able to be safe. This is now going to be spread out to other hospitals in the country, and I would like to see [this]… in the rest of the continent. South Africa once again is defining itself as the centre of innovation, even during this crisis,” he said.
In Gauteng alone, almost a million people have been screened for COVID-19.
Government keeps a hawk’s eye on COVID-19 funds
With R500 billion earmarked for the social relief and economic support package to fight COVID-19 and its impact, the President said the government will keep a close watch on how this money is spent.
“We are going to keep a hawk’s eye on how the money is going to be spent. I spoke to the Auditor-General yesterday and I said we need to put in place systems on a proactive basis to prevent the abuse of the resources that we are putting in place, so that money does not end up in people’s pockets,” he said.
The President’s warning comes on the back of allegations that food parcels were not reaching their designated beneficiaries.
“We abhor the fact that there have seen stories and allegations that some of these have ended up in people’s pockets and councillors have been abusing this.
“We want to stem that out from the onset. I do not want to hear of a commission request after the COVID-19 package. I don’t want to hear of a COVID-19 commission,” warned the President.
Telephone call with US President
On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, had a telephone call on their country’s efforts to fight COVID-19.
In this regard, President Trump expressed solidarity and pledged his support for the work that South Africa is doing.
“He was most impressed with the reports that he has heard about the way in which we are managing the issue of COVID-19.
“We didn’t get to the point of discussing the funding to the WHO, but our position is very clear that the resources and funding to the WHO should not be cut. In fact, this is the time when funding should be increased because the WHO needs all the resources at this point,” said the President. – SAnews.gov.za