Joburg has slowed spread of Covid-19, parliament committee hears

14 May 2020 - 18:37 By ERNEST MABUZA
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Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo.
Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo.
Image: Sisanda Aluta Mbolekwa

The City of Johannesburg is seeing a lower mortality rate, a higher recovery rate and fewer active cases of people with Covid-19 during the lockdown.

Plans are in place to ensure that the city is ready to deal with Covid-19 when lockdown restrictions are relaxed, Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo said on Thursday.

Makhubo was briefing the parliamentary portfolio committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs on the municipality's plans to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Some of the plans include de-densification of some informal settlements in Soweto, Diepsloot and Alexandra hostel, provision of food parcels to the needy, and providing shelter for the homeless.

Makhubo said though the city had the highest number of the total confirmed cases in Gauteng (at 1,057), the municipality had done well in slowing down the infection rate with an 81% recovery rate as at May 10.

He said the city had a mortality rate of 0.8%, and a total of 198 active cases.

Makhubo said this demonstrated the efficiency in screening, contact tracing and monitoring as well as adherence to isolation and quarantine protocols.

He said the city had identified several facilities for use as isolation and quarantine sites that will be made available to the province, should the need arise.

He said 167 (out of 175) council-owned facilities were identified for isolation or quarantine use. Eight other council-owned facilities were being used for homeless shelters.

Makhubo expressed concern about homeless and displaced people who had left the shelters and gone back to the streets.

“Now we are starting the process again to get them back into the shelters. I don't know why they are leaving because we have given them meals three times a day,” Makhubo said.

Makhubo said the city has suspended credit controls and interest charges on municipal accounts of customers who were battling to pay for services.

“This will see a financial relief of R110m for customers. Since the lockdown, we have reconnected all those we have disconnected for water and electricity, and we have not charged interest.”

Makhubo said a decrease in revenue was anticipated, especially because of the city's steps to provide relief to residents.

“We think the relief for us is a short-term pain so that we can have sustainable businesses and sustainable revenue and income going forward.

“If we don't do it, we might have companies in distress, we might have consumers in distress and our long-term sustainability as a city might be in question, so we think we must just deal with short term pain for long term benefits for the City of Johnanesburg and its residents,” Makhubo said.

In the month of April, the city under-collected by R800m. "So instead of collecting about R3.4bn, we collected about R2.6bn, which is a huge gap on our budget and we are looking at, together with finance, on how to recover.”

Makhubo also said there would be assistance for businesses including rates rebates for those up to date with their accounts.

“There will be a discount of 10 to 50% off to 'good' citizen businesses who are up to date with their accounts.

“This will improve cash flow of businesses. The departments of economic development and group finance are finalising inputs as part of a special adjustment budget process,” Makhubo said.

Makhubo said a proposal to introduce grant funding of R1,000 to R10,000 per informal traders was also under way.

Chairperson of the portfolio committee Faith Muthambi said the purpose of the briefing — also by the cities of eThekwini and Cape Town — was to enable the committee to understand better the extent of preparedness by municipalities on the anticipated hike in the number of Covid-19 infections.

Muthambi said as metros increasingly became the centre of epidemic, the committee's oversight role become critical.

“We need to satisfy ourselves there will be enough hospital beds and quarantine facilities in response to the projected hike of this infection,” Muthambi said.

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