East London is Eastern Cape's Covid-19 epicentre, as provincial cases spike

17 April 2020 - 14:34 By Ray Hartle
Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba
Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba

Buffalo City metro has recorded the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in the Eastern Cape — 91 out of the provincial total of 220 — according to figures released by provincial health MEC Sindiswa Gomba on Friday.

And the cluster outbreak at the West Bank prison women’s section has contributed 72 of the metro’s total. The rate of infection is 6.4%. This is the percentage of confirmed infections against the 3,413 total tests done in the province to date.

Gomba confirmed to DispatchLIVE that the current number of patients in the province who have died from the virus is four, in line with Thursday night’s announcement by national health minister Zweli Mkhize. But she also detailed the spread of viral infections across the province, showing a vast gap between infections in two of the major metros and the rest of the province.

Behind BCM, Nelson Mandela metro — the centre of which is Port Elizabeth — has reported 84 infections. NMB also recorded the highest jump in new cases — 15 — on April 16. Chris Hani district with its seat at Komani has 21 infection cases, Sarah Baartman district 11, OR Tambo district 9 and Amathole district 4. Joe Gqabi district municipality centred on Barkly East and Alfred Nzo district around Mount Ayliff have not yet reported any infections.

A total of 142,326 people have been screened in the province since the mass testing campaign started, while 3,413 tests were conducted by April 15.

“These statistics show that 6.4% of the tests were positive for Covid-19. The increase in the number and positivity rate is due to an increase in our efforts to identify all individuals exposed to Covid-19 virus,” Gomba said.

The MEC expressed deep concern about the contribution of funeral gatherings to the increase in overall infections in the province.

“We have scientific evidence that funeral gatherings are a major contributory factor in the increase of positive cases in our province.

“We call on bereaved families and communities to stop organising funerals with large numbers of people exceeding the stipulated number of 50 mourners,” she said.

“We call on everyone who may have attended a funeral and suddenly developed flu-like symptoms to immediately contact our 24-hour toll-free number 08000 32364 to leave their contacts/addresses for easy tracing and follow-up by our teams.”

“This is important, as it will help us to get to people faster, screen and test them so that they can get the medical assistance they need if they test positive.”

Gomba said the provincial government’s preferred position was to allow individuals and families to self-quarantine but she warned this would be reviewed because “some people are not as disciplined when it comes to this choice”.