Gauteng in serious trouble, stricter lockdown may be needed — premier

21 June 2021 - 16:41 By alex patrick
Gauteng premier David Makhura and health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi with a delegation from the SANDF that has been deployed to Gauteng in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gauteng premier David Makhura and health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi with a delegation from the SANDF that has been deployed to Gauteng in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

Premier David Makhura on Monday said he was open “to exploring” putting Gauteng under stricter lockdown if need be.

“Gauteng is burning, and the province doesn't want to send out a message that everything is OK,” Makhura warned on Monday.

He was welcoming 60 military health personnel who were deployed to help healthcare professionals in the province amid a surge in Covid-19 cases. They will be rotated to assist where the biggest needs are.

“I must say that the house is on fire. We will not change the projection of the virus unless we change our behaviour.”    

According to acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, on Sunday 1,470 patients were admitted to private hospitals and 3,448 to state facilities.

In spite of the health system in Gauteng operating under an increased load of Covid-19 cases, the province is able to cope with the pressure at this stage, Gauteng health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi said on Sunday.

On Monday she said the chances of infection are high, even within people's own families. “If you go out for a small party, even if there are 10 of you, half of those people will probably have the virus.”

The director for nursing in the SA Military Health Service, Brig-Gen Zuziwe Maso, asked on Monday that the health department help them do their jobs by supplying adequate and enough PPE.

She said within the next 48-72 hours, the additional Covid-19 wing at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto would be properly staffed and operational, with all its healthcare workers vaccinated.

Makhura warned that despite extra beds being made available, by next week “they will all be full”.

“I can't say that what we have done is enough,” he said. “This weekend as I went around townships and suburbs, I saw people behaving in a way that shows that they did not think that the virus was anything extraordinary.”

Medical staff at the Covid-19 facility at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital help a patient out of an ambulance.
Medical staff at the Covid-19 facility at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital help a patient out of an ambulance.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

The premier said he'd had discussions with both private and public hospitals and they were saying the same thing: beds are filling up. He said even after the numbers come down, it still takes up to three weeks for hospital beds to clear.

The provincial health department said earlier on Sunday that 8,403 new infections had been recorded in Gauteng in the previous 24-hour cycle and 5,178 people are in hospital.

Gauteng now has a cumulative total of 545,262 cases of the coronavirus, with 477,493 recoveries and 12,079 deaths.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) on Thursday warned that nurses in Gauteng were overwhelmed, overburdened and at risk of burnout as Covid-19 cases in the country soared above 13,000 daily.

“They are losing their colleagues and loved ones in the process, so the nurses are not coping at the moment. But it is not only nurses, we are even seeing it with doctors,” said Denosa acting provincial secretary Bongani Mazibuko.

Mazibuko said the workload was intense, and healthcare workers at times pulled 72-hour shifts or worked 7am-7pm for four to five days a week.

Sunday Times reported that Gauteng doctors, swamped by skyrocketing Covid-19 infections, are bracing for the worst as SA's third wave sees them battling staff, bed and PPE shortages.

The province's health system has come under increasing pressure after the closure of Johannesburg's Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in April, which took 1,000 general beds and 100 intensive care unit (ICU) beds out of action.

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