EC now has two Covid-19 cases, but mourners and revellers unfazed

PAYING RESPECTS: Hundreds of people attend the funeral service of ANC branch secretary Xolani Sifali on Sunday — this despite a regulation that gatherings may not include more than 100 people because of the coronavirus risk Image: FREDLIN ADRIAAN
As the Eastern Cape government grapples with ways to ensure tourists are properly screened and monitored for the coronavirus — this after news that a German tourist holidaying in Chintsa had also contacted the virus — many Bay residents are blatantly flouting rules aimed at curbing infection rates.

The German tourist was initially quarantined at Crawford Beach Lodge, about 33km from East London, but has now been sent to St Dominic’s Hospital in East London for treatment, according to resort owner Mark Crawford.

News of the tourist’s condition came on Sunday, just a day after the Eastern Cape recorded its first case of the virus.

The national health department announced late on Sunday that SA now had 274 confirmed cases — up 34 from the day before.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Saturday that a 28-year-old woman in East London had tested positive in what was the province’s first official case.

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane said the woman had recently returned to SA from a work trip to Germany and was under self-quarantine.

On Sunday, Mabuyane said the provincial government was looking at ways to curb the spread of the virus and would work hard to identify tourists who were already in the Eastern Cape so that, should there be a need, proper screening and monitoring could take place.

He said from a national point of view those from high-risk countries were already barred from entering SA, however, “we need to identify those already in the province”.

“We are already following up on this to ensure proper screening is done,” he said.

BEACH BAN: All Bay beaches and resorts are now closed to the public as a result of stricter municipal measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus
BEACH BAN: All Bay beaches and resorts are now closed to the public as a result of stricter municipal measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus Image: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

Mabuyane added that screening would be ramped up at entry points to the province.

He said he had spoken to the German ambassador to SA to discuss support and the way in which the affected tourist’s situation had been handled.

He said the ambassador had agreed it was handled well.

The Eastern Cape now has two confirmed cases and yet the news did little to deter some Port Elizabeth residents from attending large funerals or drinking outside the prescribed hours.

The most blatant rule-breaking was seen at an ANC funeral at the Feather Market Centre in Central on Sunday.

Regulations relating to prohibited drinking hours and the banning of large gatherings were announced by Ramaphosa last Sunday when he declared a national disaster because of the pandemic.

The sale of liquor is only permitted between 9am and 6pm on weekdays and Saturdays.

On Sundays and public holidays the hours are 9am to 1pm.

All gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited and yet,  on Sunday, at least 250 people gathered at the Feather Market Centre for the funeral of ANC branch secretary Xolani Sifali.

Asked about the large crowd, ANC regional co-ordinator Luyolo Nqakula refused to comment, saying: “Who owns the building and who must enforce the rules?”

Likewise, ANC councillor Andile Lungisa would not be drawn on the numbers, saying death was unpredictable and no-one could police a funeral.

“We did not go to the funeral as [the] ANC,” Lungisa said.

“These people left their homes and attended the funeral as individuals, not as a group.

“A funeral is a family affair;  we cannot police a family matter and that is the nature of funerals,” he said.

On Saturday, another large funeral took place at the Forest Hill Cemetery.

Mourners, including those who had arrived in two packed Algoa Bus Company buses, streamed into the cemetery.

An Algoa Bus Company driver, who did not want to be named,  said each bus carried about 102 people, seated and standing, and that some mourners had not even been able to get on the bus as there was not enough space.  He said he was unable to enforce the “no more than 100″  rule as he feared he would be reported for not doing his job.

One mourner, who also asked to remain anonymous, confirmed there had been many more than 100 people at both the service and the cemetery.

“We are Africans. When a loved one dies we all want to come and pay our respects, and it is quite difficult to turn people away,” he said.

Earlier on Sunday, the municipality announced the closure of beaches and resorts, and when asked about the funeral, municipal spokesperson Kupido Baron said metro police had been too busy dealing with those closures.

“Metro police had their hands full to enforce the closure of beaches, resorts and other municipal facilities that had to be closed since new directives came through and we officially implemented it from this morning [Sunday],” he said.

Metro police chief Yolande Faro said they had received no official feedback about the funeral, adding the SAPS should answer questions on the matter, as it had attended to a complaint about the gathering.

When asked about the large funerals, police spokesperson Priscilla Naidu said she had escalated the matter to provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana.

Kinana said it had been sent to national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidu.

Naidu said: “The regulation has only just been passed.

“We are not going to provide a blow-by-blow account.

“It will suffice to say at this stage that it is expected of every person in SA to comply with the regulations.”

Metro police were out on the streets looking for offenders breaking the liquor ban.

Baron said: “Patrols are ongoing. Friday and Saturday we covered the western suburbs, and we are expanding to the townships and other suburbs.”

Over the weekend, bars and pubs in the western areas were quiet, but the northern areas and townships were abuzz with activities.

As Saturday was a public holiday, pubs and taverns should have closed at 1pm.

However, a tavern owner in Motherwell,  who did not want to be named, said he would not close before 6pm.

When asked if he was aware of the new regulation he said yes.

“As you can see it is busy.

“We might close around 6pm today [Saturday]; I’m not sure.

“I am also looking out for the police.

“If they don’t come then I’ll close a bit later,” he said.

Most taverns in Motherwell were open for business until 6pm on Saturday.

One tavern near the Motherwell Police Station in Nu 10 was closed, but people were seen buying  liquor through the gate.

Most taverns in Kwazakhele were closed, but some allowed customers to buy takeaways.

The Herald spoke to patrons at a tavern in Zwide, where a 32-year-old man — who asked not to be named — — said he was aware of the coronavirus and was using hand sanitiser.

“What are we expected to do?” the man, wearing a mask that hung loosely around his chin, said.

“On weekends people want to relax and catch up with their friends.

“We are following every precaution by having sanitisers and greeting one another with the elbow.

“That should be enough,” he said.

Some township residents resorted to opening up their garages and inviting friends over.

At a popular Zwide butchery — where meat can be braaied on-site — people gathered outside and drank in their cars.

The butchery does not sell alcohol, but is a popular gathering place.

A 28-year-old male, who did not want to be named, said they were parking outside and so, while many people were there, it did not count as a gathering.

“I am here with four friends and the people parked over there are together.

“They can’t disperse us because we are not all here together,” he said.

BY ZIZONKE MAY, ZIPO-ZENKOSI NCOKAZI AND ANGELA DANIELS – HeraldLIVE

 

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