Modern, Growing, Successful Province

Statement by the Premier, Dr Zamani Saul, on the Northern Cape Provincial Command Council, Virtual briefing, 2 June 2021

Members of the Executive Council
Heads of Department
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen

The Provincial Command Council met yesterday and reflected on the current lockdown level 2 regulations as well as our efforts in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. I will just highlight some points and then allow the Departments of Health and Education to make brief presentations on the COVID-19 cases as well as our response in mitigating the spread of the virus.

During the past few weeks, the Province reported the highest incidence of new cases of COVID-19 in the country. Our learners in schools have also not been immune to these infections and where we experienced spikes in cases, we have observed school closures. We therefore welcome the pronouncement by the President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, to adjust the Lockdown levels to Level 2. However, with the current developments in the Province, we wish to send a word of caution to our members of the public, that if we are not able to work together to limit the spread of the virus, we could be moving to higher lock down levels sooner than anticipated.

The higher numbers are an indication that we are moving closer to the Third Wave as a country and it will place a higher demand on health services. It could also result in the same disruptions to families and the economy as experienced in 2020.

The Province has 171 cases per 100 000 people, followed by the Free State with 105 cases per 100 000, and Gauteng with 71 cases per 100 000 persons.
Over the past few weeks, we have also greatly improved our testing capacity and in the last 7 days we have tested over 12 000 people for COVID-19 in the Province. This is an 8% increase compared to 11 000 in the previous week. This includes 2 668 close contacts of infected people who were newly listed for monitoring and testing.

It is important to note that the Province has been able to maintain its ramped up testing and this is proven by the fact that the Northern Cape has a testing rate of 905 persons per 100 000. The province with the next best testing rate is the Western Cape and the lowest in the country is Limpopo with 82 persons per 100 000.
Improved case management, whereby individuals and communities are more aware of the symptoms and when to seek health care assistance, has resulted in an increase in hospital admissions over the past two weeks. The current admissions to hospital have remained stable compared to the previous week, despite a slight increase in intensive care admissions. This is putting increased pressure on the high and intensive care facilities and the hospitals are actively seeking additional specialised nurses, including recruitment from agency staff providers.

One of the matters that are critical in the pandemic is our oxygen supplies in our key health facilities and we can report that out of 20 key facilities, we have completed the upgrading as well as installation in 15 of these key health facilities. The remaining health facilities will be completed in due course.

This intervention will ensure that patients can receive life-saving oxygen treatment at facilities closer to them instead of having to travel long distances.

We can also report that the Department of Health is maintaining the availability of PPE within the acceptable norms between 80% and 95%. This ensures that we have sufficient stock to keep our staff safe.

We would like to thank our staff members at the Department of Health who are so dedicated to their work and who are going the extra mile to ensure that all aspects of the fight against the pandemic are maintained.

Although the provincial mortality rate remains one of the lowest in the country, at 22 per 1 000 people infected it is still too high and we extend our sincerest condolences to everyone affected by COVID-19 related deaths.

To date, the Province has recorded 1 100 deaths due to COVID-19 since March 2020, with 555 of these occurring since January 2021. Sixty four percent (64%) of people who passed on were in the age group 60 years and older. Seventy nine percent (79%) of people who passed on had underlying co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.

For this reason, we want to emphasise our need to urgently adhere and support the safety protocols. We urge all community members to continue implementing all non-pharmaceutical interventions, including wearing of face masks, sanitizing and washing of hands, physical distancing of at least 1.5m and abstaining from group gatherings such as parties, funerals and the like.

I also want to encourage those eligible for vaccination to register and await the opportunity to get vaccinated. Vaccination of people in the province against COVID-19 is the lasting solution for combatting this pandemic.

We are anticipating additional deliveries of vaccine from the national suppliers over the coming days. This will allow us to continue opening additional vaccination sites in Springbok, Calvinia and De Aar to complement the sites in Kimberley, Kuruman and Upington.

Currently we are vaccinating around 800 people per day on average but as more sites come online and more of our 60 plus community members register, we will be able to build towards our target of 118 000 of this age group. As at yesterday we have vaccinated 15 666 persons. Out of this figure 9 640 are health care workers and 6 026 seniors 60 years and older.

We have recorded 27 038 registrations for vaccination of our 60 plus age group and we are calling on our communities to assist their family members, colleagues and friends to encourage and register for their vaccination. By getting vaccinated you are protecting yourself and those around you. People who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 must keep taking precautions such a wearing a mask, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces and washing or sanitising your hands often.

Before I allow the Departments of Health and Education to give us more detail, I just want to reflect on our safety response. Now that the country has been moved to adjusted alert level 2, the SAPS will focus on increased police visibility, stop and searches and visits to key points to monitor compliance in terms of the Disaster Management Act.

In relation to compliance to the Regulations, numerous arrests were affected for burglaries at schools and malicious damage to property where school premises were vandalised. Non-compliance for not wearing masks in public spaces is also being monitored. Police visibility has been enhanced and increased in the vicinity of schools, churches, shopping complexes and government buildings.

In conjunction with the Northern Cape Liquor Board, designated Police Officers regularly conduct visits to liquor outlets both on-site and off-site premises to ensure compliance to closing times. Compliance to the curfew is addressed during vehicle patrols and stop and search actions.

Awareness programmes such as the Safer Schools Programme and Human Trafficking specifically focusing on gender based violence where women and children are victims, are conducted at high schools and primary schools in the province. Community outreach programmes are conducted to create and educate the broader public on the COVID 19 regulations and protocols.

It is also sad to note that the Province has the high number of SAPS and Health Care personnel testing positive for COVID 19. In SAPS 1317 tested positive and 24 succumbed to the virus since we started with Covid. At the Department of Health 1 863 positive cases of whom 37 sadly succumbed to the virus. I want to pass our heartfelt condolences to the families of those members. I also want to encourage all public servants to strictly comply with the COVID- 19 protocols.
Let me now allow the Departments to take us through some detail pertaining to their areas of specialisation.

Issued by the Office of the Premier

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