Modern, Growing, Successful Province

Media Statement by the Premier,Dr Zamani Saul on the Provincial Vaccine Rollout

MEC for Health, Mr Maruping Lekwene
Senior Government Officials
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for joining us at this important briefing this morning which signifies an important step in our fight against the global Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic.

In response to Covid 19 our Province adopted a multi-sectoral approach and established the following to curb the outbreak: health response, law enforcement and compliance with regulations, food security and social relief, economic response and social mobilisation.

To date the COVID-19 Pandemic have manifested in 2 waves in the province. The first wave started when we had our first confirmed COVID-19 case on the 25th of March 2020 and the first death occurred on the 11th of May 2020.

As a Provincial Government we extend our sincerest condolences to the families that have lost loved ones due to the pandemic. We also wish everyone who has been or is affected by COVID-19, a speedy recovery.

The Department of Health together with our stakeholders have prepared in excess of 3 300 beds including ICU and High Care capacity with a huge investment in staffing, equipment, vehicles etc. In December we launched 75 new Emergency vehicles, consisting of 65 Ambulances and 10 Patient Transport vehicles as well as 55 clinical outreach bakkies, to strengthen the response capacity of public health care to communities in the Province.

We appointed 424 clinical professionals, ranging from medical officers, pharmacists, nurses and allied health professionals in all districts, at an annual cost of R197 million.

We invested heavily in additional medical equipment to combat the pandemic, including 35 ventilators, 16 blood gas analysers, 225 CPAP machines (constant positive airways pressure machines), 2 268 infusion pumps, and 107 automatic defibrillators. The cost of this investment is in the order of R120 million.

It must also be noted that in this time we received 11 Hugh Reese Cuban Brigade doctors, health technologists, an epidemiologist and a bio-statistician who have contributed greatly in our fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic.

From mid-July 2020, the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported daily has been declining in the country. Despite this trend in the country, the province experienced a delayed increase compared to the national average. As the Northern Cape we experienced a flattened peak where we recorded during Week 30 - the week ending the 26th of July 2020, a high of 1552 new cases.

Our highest peak in the Province was during Week 38 – 14 – 20 Sept 2020, when we recorded 1644 new cases for the week.

The 1st Wave was officially over during Week 46 ending 9 November 2020 when we reached 328 new cases for the Province.

In summary for the 1st wave we had a total of 22 725 cumulative cases with 301 deaths.

The outcomes of this were used to implement additional measures to prepare for the next wave. The 2nd Wave started during the week of 14th December 2020 when we saw an increase of 425 new cases. There was a speedy escalation which went into 2021 where we found a consecutive weekly increase of 706 and 1041 new cases.

In January 2021 we started with a record weekly high of 1727 on the 10th of January 2021 and again a new weekly record of 1898 by the 17th of January 2021.

In summary we had for January 2021, a record of 6 762 new Covid-19 cases which is higher than any months since the Pandemic started in March 2020. This translates into a daily average of 218 new cases. 

For the second week in succession, the Province registered a significant decline in new cases after experiencing a rapid rise and the highest peak during the 2nd Wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. During the past week (25 – 31 Jan 2021), the Province recorded 1 048 new cases which is 26% lower than 1 408 new cases recorded in the previous week (18 – 24 Jan 2021). 

Clearly the 2nd Wave is getting under control through the collective efforts and sterling work being done by our Health Care Workers, support staff and stakeholders.

Comparatively to other Provinces, we are doing extremely well where our mortality rate is 1, 8% compared to the Country mortality of 3, 1%.

As a Province with our 595 deaths to date, we should have had a total number of deaths of 998.

We can see that our investment as a province of about R500 million is bearing fruit where we strengthened the response capacity of our Health Care System.

We need to recognise all our stakeholders - NGOs, mines in particular that made a contribution in excess of R100 million and our Private Sector in general.

Despite the gains made, we need to emphasise that we are not out of the woods as yet and we have to continue to prepare for the 3rd Wave.

The areas of concern in our province that are on our watch list are:

  1. Phokwane in Frances Baard
  2. Gamagara and Gasegonyana in JTG
  3. Emthanjeni, Siyathemba and Siyancuma in Pixley ka Seme
  4. Kgatelopele and Dawid Kruiper in ZFM
  5. Nama Khoi and Hantam in Namakwa

We are calling on our citizens to continue adhering to the measures and not to let their guard down

Ladies and gentlemen

Let me now proceed to the business of the day and the reason why we have called this session. The first batch of life saving vaccines has arrived in our country marking phase one of the vaccine rollout. As indicated by the President, all healthcare workers will be prioritised for vaccination during this phase.

The transportation security to the primary distribution sites in provinces, including the Northern Cape, will be done by vehicles fitted with tracking systems and escorted by Fidelity Armed Response and SAPS. 

The South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre (SAVIC) at Sefako Mkgatho University are leading the development training for health care workers which will consist of six modules. A national online training programme was held on 15th January 2021, attended by 245 from the Northern Cape. All vaccination sites will have at least one master trainer.

Now that the vaccine is in the country, the national plan is that this will be delivered to provinces between 7th and 9th February and the actual vaccination (injection) of healthcare workers will start from 10th February.

Access to COVID-19 vaccines is the government’s highest priority. Our target is to vaccinate 67 per cent of the population by the end of 2021, which will allow us to achieve population (herd) immunity.

In the Northern Cape the aim is to vaccinate 67% of the population, or just under 900 000 people, by the end of the year. The rollout will take a three-phased approach that begins with the most vulnerable in our population.

  • Phase 1 will focus on 14 000 frontline healthcare workers –.
  • Phase 2 will see us vaccinate essential workers, persons in congregate settings, persons over 60 years and persons over 18 years with co-morbidities.
  • Phase 3 will focus on the remaining population.

In Phase 1 the province will be receiving 14 000 vaccine doses early next week in the first allocation from BioVac for the initial roll-out to patient-facing personnel 10 000 public sector and 4 000 private sector.

The additional allocations of the vaccine will be used to vaccinate the remaining health care employees, followed by the categories identified in Phase 2 and 3.

In Phase 1 we will roll out the vaccine to 15 centres in a phased approach as follows:

  • The Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Tertiary Hospital in Kimberley will receive 2 080 doses of the vaccine as of Wednesday, 10 February 2021
  • Dr Harry Surtie Regional Hospital in Upington will receive 910 doses of the vaccine from Friday, 12 February 2021
  • District Hospitals in Springbok, Kuruman and De Aar will receive 2 390 doses from Monday, 15 February 2021
  • All other hospitals will receive 970 doses from Monday 22 February 2021
  • Primary Health Care Clinics and Community Health Care Centres will receive 1 790 doses from Monday, 1 March 2021
  • All other clinical support staff will receive 1 310 doses also from Monday, 1 March 2021

The estimated rollout for the first phase is therefore a total amount of 9 450 doses of the vaccine. The plan is to complete vaccination of all “patient-facing” government staff by end of March 2021. The private health sector will run a parallel vaccination process.

The vaccine rollout in the Province is being overseen by a steering committee led by the Acting Head of Department of Health (HOD), Dr Dion Theys.

Reporting to the Steering Committee is the Vaccine Task Team which is project managed by the Head of Pharmaceutical Services. This task team comprises a wide range of clinical and non-clinical staff as well as representatives from organised labour. Liaison with the private health sector has been a key activity and will now be extended to include representatives of the private sector on the task team.

It should be noted that everyone has a choice on whether they will be vaccinated, no one will be forced. Vaccination however is the best defence against serious infections. The Electronic Vaccine Data System has been formally launched, initially for healthcare workers only as part of this first phase of the rollout.

While the vaccine is an important part of Covid-19 protection, it is important to emphasise the continued practice of Covid-19 non-pharmaceutical behaviours, which include:

  • Correct wearing of mask
  • Hand washing with soap and/or use of hand sanitiser
  • Physical distance of 2 metres
  • Prompt presentation to care when symptoms identified
  • Prompt self-Isolation post exposure or a positive test result
  • Avoidance of crowded places
  • Adequate ventilation indoors and in confined spaces

I therefore call on every citizen, young and old, to be responsible and to observe all Covid-19 protocols.

As I conclude I want to state that the Province has been hard hit by the recent rains causing extensive flooding in various parts of our Province. The John Taolo Gaetsewe District being the hardest hit, with damages to roads, infrastructure and properties. Tomorrow the Executive led by myself will be visiting John Taolo Gaetsewe District to assess the effects of the flooding. A report will be provided at a later stage.

Please continue to play your part and stay safe.

Thank you

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