1,300 Gauteng teens urged to quarantine after attending KZN matric rage

'Most of my friends have tested positive, too': Matric Rager speaks after catching Covid

08 December 2020 - 10:41 By Wendy Knowler and TimesLIVE
1,300 teenagers from Gauteng are being sought for Covid tracing after they attended the 2020 Ballito matric rage event. (File image from a rage event in a previous year.)
1,300 teenagers from Gauteng are being sought for Covid tracing after they attended the 2020 Ballito matric rage event. (File image from a rage event in a previous year.)
Image: Shelley Christians

“We knew that attending Rage was a bit risky, but government hadn’t outlawed it, so we thought we would be okay.”

When Laura’s (not her real name) mother fetched her from Ballito Rage last Friday and the 18-year-old Durban private school matriculant was out of breath by the time she’d loaded her suitcase into the car's boot, they suspected the worst.

“I have never had any lung issues, so it was really scary battling to breathe,” she said.

She was already quarantined in her bedroom when her Covid-19 test came back positive, by which time she’d lost her sense of taste.

“Most of my friends - at least 30 people - have tested positive, too. We’re all stuck in our bedrooms for 10 days.”

They are among those who have caught the virus at what the national health department described as a "superspreader event".

On Tuesday, the Gauteng health department disclosed that 1,300 pupils from the province had attended the Ballito events. Its officials have prioritised their contact tracing.

All who went to the Rage events need to quarantine themselves for 14 days and go for testing as a matter of urgency, said the department. Those who test positive will need to isolate for a mandatory 10 days. Family contacts of those who test positive must also go for testing and must go into quarantine.

“Our contact tracing team is working around the clock to trace all the students who took part in the Rage events. It is important they all go for testing and are monitored until they are cleared by clinicians,” said MEC for health Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi.

“Laura’s” mother said she received a call from the health department on Monday offering free testing for the family and asking how Laura was doing. “Really impressive.”

While the official “Sound Factory” Rage events had strict Covid-19 protocols in place, Laura said, other Rage events and particularly one of the pre-Rage “Litchi” parties at a Durban venue were packed, and no protocols were enforced.

Her mother told TimesLIVE: “I understood that the parties were going to be limited in numbers and that the Red Frogs were going to be ensuring that masks were worn and protocols were in place.

“So the problem came on the Friday with the Litchi Party which is separate from Rage, but is accepted as the event which kick-starts Rage.

“The three venues were only released on the Friday once the Ragers were already in Ballito.

“There was hardly any at the one venue, so most of the kids moved to another one which was packed and no protocols were adhered to at all.

“I had no idea that the Rage parties were going to be held in a club, as the details of venues were released at the last minute. Then I thought numbers in the venues would be limited and protocols observed, which was not the case.”

Durban-based emergency medicine doctor Dr Adrienne Wulfsen said many of the parents who allowed their children to attend Rage are now blaming themselves, which is “not correct.”

“Since the hard lockdown of March, we've been asked to put our faith in government’s evaluation of Covid-19 risks. When it came to Rage, the authorities approved the events and no warnings were issued,” she said.

The Rage Festival organisers said on its Facebook page that it had submitted an 86-page document on its Covid-19 plan to the local health department and the Durban events department prior to the event. "We had to comply with more than 20 additional regulations in order to obtain approval, which was obtained."

The protocols included pre-screening, daily temperature checks, strict mask protocols and limits on numbers at venues.

"Despite all efforts before and during the festival and at all Rage-controlled venues, we regret that we have received reports that some attendees have subsequently tested positive for Covid-19. In addition we are aware of four staff working on behalf of suppliers who have let us know directly they have tested positive.

"We continue to work closely with all stakeholders to monitor the situation, engage with local authorities, communicate with attendees and staff and make all our resources available. We are obviously deeply concerned and are doing everything in our power to communicate effectively to all staff, attendees and all stakeholders including the department of health."

In its statement, the Gauteng health department urged people to protect themselves and others by wearing masks, washing hands frequently and avoiding the “three Cs”: closed spaces, crowded places and close contact settings.

GET IN TOUCH: Wendy Knowler specialises in consumer journalism. You can reach her via e-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za or on Twitter: @wendyknowler

TimesLIVE

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