Health department fears looting spree will push Covid-19 numbers up
The health department says it’s concerned about the likelihood of increased Covid-19 infections as a result of the looting spree in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in the past 10 days.
“Many [people] have been interacting in this looting spree and some of them may have come into contact with people who are positive. We are requesting that when they see signs [of Covid-19 infection], they present themselves to a facility so that we can contain the Delta variant in KZN,” said the acting minister of health, Mmamoloko Kubayi.
Briefing the portfolio committee on health on Wednesday evening, Kubayi said the department was affected by the violent riots where some South Africans were seen looting without observing Covid-19 regulations.
“We continue to be worried about the likelihood in the next seven to 14 days of seeing the numbers going up,” said the minister.
Kubayi said a decision was taken to temporarily halt the vaccination rollout during the riots.
“This was done to ensure the security of the vaccines so that they didn't end up in the wrong hands or get lost because people were not able to move across the province,” she said.
Kubayi said vaccination has commenced in KwaZulu-Natal. Operations in Gauteng, where vaccination was stopped for a day, have since resumed.
“In terms of health facilities that were disrupted, we were able to secure distribution of oxygen to hospitals with police escorts.
“We also had to engage the security cluster where there was a need for interventions and support.”
Kubayi said work was continuing to assess the losses, especially in KZN. “We have a sense of where we are, especially in KZN specifically, but it is not yet finalised because some of the people are still accessing the sites to see what is there and quantify what the loss is.
She warned people not to consume medicine bought on the black market as it could be contaminated.
The DA’s Siviwe Gwarube asked Kubayi what contingency plans had been made to assist damaged pharmacies because “thousands of people are not able to access their medications and health facilities”.
Portfolio committee chair Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo asked Kubayi what citizens should do if they find medication among looted items.
The department’s Dr Nicholas Crisp said: “The estimated number of missed vaccination is around 250,000 based on the number of vaccinations that the provinces were doing before the disruptions. The actual loss of doses looks like around 25,000 but we are still getting information in terms of those lost or destroyed.
“In terms of the infrastructure and the ability to deliver, there were large private pharmacies that were damaged. Not all were vaccination centres but it is still a concern because that is where many patients get their other medications.”
Crisp said one bulk store which had the 25,000 doses was destroyed.
To recover the loss will take some time, said Crisp, because “every lost vaccine is a lost chance to vaccinate”.
On the projection for the potential cases for the third wave, Crisp said: “We do expect that it will tick up and we will see a second hump but we do not know where it will be or how big it will be.”