Mkhize says citizens must 'make a choice — life, or sickness and death'
Second wave prompts calls for tough Covid protocol enforcement
Health experts have pleaded with authorities to ramp up the enforcement of Covid-19 protocols as a second wave “that seems determined to dwarf the first wave” sweeps across SA.
“We are going to be very busy this festive season. A lot of people will be in a jolly mood and will likely want to party beyond midnight,” said Joburg metro police spokesperson chief supt Wayne Minnaar.
Minnaar admitted that the metro police were monitoring clubs and venues “in a reactionary manner” — only responding when a complaint against an establishment had been laid. He said they had closed “numerous” places, especially those operating after the midnight curfew, but no fines have been issued.
This also seems to be the case in the major centres of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and the Western Cape singled out by health minister Zweli Mkhize this week as having alarming spikes in infections.
The second wave warning comes as the coastal provinces prepare for December 16, a public holiday that usually attracts an influx of tourists to the country's beaches.
Speaking at a World Universal Health Coverage Day event yesterday, Mkhize issued a stern warning.
“The time has come for South Africans to make a choice — life, or sickness and death. If we choose life, then we must realise that we have to make sacrifices during this festive season,” he said.
“It will not be possible to celebrate the holidays in the way we are accustomed to. We must now understand that the frivolities that are usually associated with the festive season must make way for the things that really matter — family and friends, caring for one another, physical and spiritual rejuvenation and preserving the spirit of ubuntu.
“We therefore all need to take action to save lives and protect everyone. We must commit to small gatherings, responsible drinking, frequent sanitising or washing of hands and surfaces, social distancing, and we must never compromise on the correct and consistent wearing of masks.”
Durban general practitioner Dr Mags Moodley said things were looking bleak as most Covid tests were now coming back positive. “We need to shut down large events and gatherings. We need more police and army on the streets. People need to adhere to masking and distancing, and people need to isolate or quarantine as per guidelines.”
Western Cape premier Alan Winde's spokesperson, Bianca Capazorio, said that during a discussion with President Cyril Ramaphosa, Winde had “indicated there needed to be stronger enforcement of existing regulations and to investigate introducing consequences for not wearing a mask, given its major importance in the fight against the pandemic and support by scientists”.
Given the resurgence of Covid infections in the Western Cape, access to swimming pools, picnic spots and braai areas will be reduced, and all summer markets cancelled.
According to Winde, operations were held in Cape Town between July and October during which 8,216 premises were inspected for Covid-19 compliance. Of these, 1,074 were found to be noncompliant. Inspectors also found that 17% of supermarkets, 6% of restaurants and nearly 15% of taverns, bars and pubs were noncompliant.
The Western Cape Liquor Authority has to date suspended 49 liquor licences.
In the southern Cape region, another Covid-19 hotspot, police have been visiting legal and illegal taverns and pubs to cheque on compliance since the beginning of the national lockdown.
“The owners or managers are held responsible to ensure compliance to Covid protocols, especially the wearing of masks. Gross negligence can result in a fine being issued or a summons to appear in court,” said police spokesperson Malcolm Pojie. The police are joining forces with the public order policing and cluster crime-combating teams to enforce adherence to regulations, he said.
While the Western Cape has no specific task team established to enforce Covid-19 protocols, interventions are overseen by its provincial disaster management team.
Since the new lockdown regulations were announced, law enforcement agencies in conjunction with the Eastern Cape Liquor Board had mounted two joint operations targeted at taverns and shebeens in Nelson Mandela Bay, municipal spokesperson Kupido Baron said. During these operations, three taverns in Motherwell were fined R3,000 each and temporarily closed.
“The awareness campaign that was launched to speak to tavern owners has had a positive affect, in that many establishments visited are adhering to health protocols,” Baron said. He added that compliance enforcement visits at taverns and shebeens over weekends were continuing.
In KwaZulu-Natal, medical staff and unions are concerned about a surge in cases. Infections jumped from 7,830 active cases last Saturday to 12,431 on Friday.
The provincial secretary for the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA, Mandla Shabangu, said at least 20 of its members had tested positive in the past two weeks. He said there were enough beds but not enough human resources to handle the surge.
eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said that though the city was aware of the spike in infections, its beaches would remain open during the festive season.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, head of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee, said that though he had predicted a second wave in the second week of January because of people travelling during December, it had started much earlier.
“And now we must consider the virus spreading to all the provinces as people go on holidays. We are heading to a quite severe situation,” he said at a University of KwaZulu-Natal research symposium on Thursday.
Karim said the big risk in the second surge was that South Africans had become complacent.
“I worked on the basis that people would understand that the government was not controlling them any more and so you had to take personal responsibility,” he said.
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