Behave or face stricter lockdown than in Nelson Mandela Bay, KZN warned

No plans to close beaches due to Covid-19 - but this may change

08 December 2020 - 17:56 By Yasantha Naidoo and yasantha naidoo
KZN health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu speaks at the opening of a new Covid-19 facility on Tuesday
KZN health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu speaks at the opening of a new Covid-19 facility on Tuesday
Image: KZN department of health

KwaZulu-Natal residents who flout social distancing protocols, socialise in public and attend events face tough new Covid-19 restrictions that will be similar to or more stringent than those imposed in Nelson Mandela Bay.

That's the warning from KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, who was speaking at the official opening of a new Covid-19 facility at the 80-year-old Niemeyer Hospital at eMadlangeni (Utrecht) on Tuesday.

Simelane-Zulu described KZN’s growing Covid-19 cases as a cause for concern after more than 804 new cases were reported on Monday, in addition to 611 the day before.

“As of today, the province has had 131,725 confirmed cases (8,906 are still active), and 3,406 deaths. Within the latest 24-hour reporting period, the province has had 375 new infections,” she said. 

“We’ve started the festive season ... and because we couldn’t hold the majority of activities and community programmes during the year, they’ve been shifted to the December holiday. Unfortunately, if that is not managed properly, there’s a likelihood of them becoming superspreader events.

“As a result, we are calling on people to ensure that they continue to adhere to the protocols ... wearing face masks, washing hands regularly with soap and water, sanitising and maintaining social distancing.

“We’re calling on our people to adhere to these regulations, because if they don’t the government will have to step in and be stricter.

“The president recently spoke about tightening the bolts in one municipality. We are not an exception. Should it become clear that we are becoming a hotspot, the president will do the same thing to us as a province in its entirety or as certain cities and towns where the numbers are increasing.

The hospital has 33 new fully equipped isolation beds, state-of-the-art buildings and other infrastructure; and an improved staff complement — all ready to treat patients who have Covid-19.

Simelane-Zulu said Niemeyer was among the first hospitals that had to be repurposed soon after confirmation of the country’s first Covid-19 case in March.

Its renovation, which started on May 8 and was completed on October 1, was in line with the department’s approach that each of the province’s 11 districts had to have a designated Covid hospital. 

“Covid was bad for us when it started, but it also gave us an opportunity to improve our facilities. I’m very excited to be here today, because when I compare what I saw when I first came to the facility - there’s a huge difference,” she said. 

“Today, we have a grade-A hospital that has proper isolation and ICU beds. Even the patients are happy to come to this facility and the clinicians are quite happy to be working in an environment like this.

“After Covid, we are going to bring back the services that the hospital was offering previously but was unable to manage properly because of a lack of infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, the KZN government confirmed that - in spite of "reports and proposals" being circulated - that no formal decision has been taken to close the province's beaches this festive season due to rising Covid-19 cases.

"At this stage there is no decision the provincial government has taken or contemplating to take with regards to the closure of beaches. This may only change based on the assessment of the situation on the ground and based on advised by the medical experts," a government statement on Tuesday afternoon read.

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