Cape Town – As Covid-19 cases climb in the Western Cape, calls for the province to be put under a stricter lockdown and for provincial borders to be closed grow stronger.
In a 24-hour period this weekend, 1 847 new Covid-19 cases were reported, ranking the Western Cape the province with the most active cases in South Africa with a total of 34 929.
Gauteng borders were closed when the province had recorded 9 443 new cases of the virus on July 4, after successive days of Covid-19 cases surging. The lockdown measures included the banning of leisure travel in and out of the province, and the ban on the sale of alcohol.
Western Cape ANC leader Cameron Dugmore warned that not enough had been done to prevent a prolonged third wave in the province which has yet to peak.
“They (the Western Cape government) appear to have taken a view that vaccinations will solve the problem of the pandemic, and all of us know that it is behaviour change on the ground, driven by communities which will actually ensure that the vaccination programme is effective.
“We have warned the premier that his fixation with procuring alternative vaccines has resulted in him and the province losing focus. Our clear responsibility is to be on the ground, with the prevention message, mobilising communities, and unfortunately the Western Cape has failed in that regard,” he said.
Dugmore said it was crucial that closing the province’s borders must be considered at this time.
“This is something that must be very seriously considered. Unfortunately we have a situation where once again the provincial government, and particularly the MEC for Finance, is more intent on pleasing the big business lobby in the liquor industry than actually focusing on prevention, where as all the evidence shows that the role of the sale of alcohol is one of the things that contributes to super spreader events. The province needs to take a critical look, and seriously consider the path that Gauteng has taken,” he said.
Yesterday, Premier Alan Winde was in Mitchells Plain where he received his first jab of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Winde admitted that the peak of the third wave in the Western Cape remained a concern.
“It is worrying. We thought that we were at the top of the peak but it looks like this peak is longer than we thought. Everybody has to be more than careful,” he said.
But, the premier dismissed calls for stricter lockdown measures to be implemented.
“I don’t think we need stricter lockdown restrictions just yet, but my message to citizens is that it’s in your hands. I went to Mitchells Plain Hospital (on Saturday) and my first question was how is your trauma unit? Because we are now at level 3 and not 4. Has alcohol made a difference? They were very worried about Saturday night and Sunday, so the message is: wherever you are in the province, don’t abuse alcohol and end up in a trauma unit. Our trauma units are full of Covid-19 patients,” he said.
GOOD party secretary general Brett Herron said the lockdown measures taken in Gauteng could work best now in the Western Cape.
“Critical care units in all our hospitals are under strain. It is our duty to do whatever we can to get the rapid transmission of the virus under control.
“When Gauteng’s infection rates were breaking the first and second-wave levels, there was restriction of movement in and out of that province, in addition to the restrictions imposed nationally. It would make sense to restrict inter-provincial travel while the provinces are at different stages of the third wave.”
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) agree that a lockdown in the Western Cape, similar to that implemented in Gauteng, was urgently needed.
Denosa Western Cape chairperson Eleanor Roberts said: “The community at large are not listening to what we are saying, and they are complacent. So as Denosa, we believe that if we do go into a lockdown like in Gauteng, it would ease the pressure on our nurses and we would welcome that.”
She added: “We know that when there was a strict lockdown and alcohol was banned, the pressure was not like this in the hospitals, it was much less. At the end of the day, it would benefit us as nurses, and it will benefit the community to ease that burden on us, and possibly in a month we can see how to proceed and if things improved, particularly with the infection rate.”
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) does not support the call to put the Western Cape under a stricter lockdown. Nehawu Western Cape provincial secretary Baxolise Mali said: “We do not support the lockdown similar to Gauteng. The rising number of infections cannot entirely be divorced from the pace of vaccination, slow pace of registration for elders in rural areas of Western Cape.”
He added: “Staff pressure is also as a result of a shortage of staff, and hence, our call for nurses on contract to be permanently absorbed, and also absorption of community health workers, as this is a resource that can be effectively used to build the internal capacity of the health department.”
Article written by: Nathan Adams
Photo credit: SowetanLive