Chris Hani district latest Covid-19 EC hotspot

The Chris Hani district has become the province’s latest Covid-19 hotspot after two siblings contracted the virus and were admitted to intensive care, bringing to three the known number of infected people in the region.    

A relative of the siblings, a paramedic working at Dordrecht Emergency Medical Services (EMS), has been tested for the virus and is awaiting his results in quarantine.

It is understood the paramedic’s Covid-19-positive father is in intensive care at Frontier Hospital in Komani, while his aunt is in ICU at Komani Private Hospital.

DispatchLIVE was informed the siblings had attended a funeral prior to falling ill but this could not be confirmed.

Judy Ngoloyi, spokesperson for health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, told DispatchLIVE the department was testing and screening close contacts, “including families”, of the siblings.

DispatchLIVE was told there were two other possible coronavirus cases in the siblings’ village of  Vaalbank in Dordrecht, but Ngoloyi was unable to confirm this.

The news that the paramedic’s father and aunt had tested positive for the virus has created panic among his colleagues at the Dordrecht EMS.

They have refused to work and their operations base has remained closed since Friday.

Ngoloyi said: “The staff who work on the same shift as the employee have requested to be screened and tested.”

This was done on Sunday and the results were expected in about 48 hours.

“The department is identifying service providers to disinfect the ambulances that were used by the employee.

“It is important to mention that the employee concerned is still [a] suspected [case,] and he doesn’t show any signs and symptoms of coronavirus infection at the moment,” she said.

“He has been tested and is in self-quarantine. He has been at home since Saturday.

“There were only a few employees who were in contact with the person.”

Because EMS personnel had decided to down tools, Ngoloyi said service disruption in the district would be dealt with in terms of department policies.

“We don’t expect total unavailability of service but rather an abnormal response time in the short term.

“We are fixing this and we hope to have it resolved shortly.”

The paramedic in question, whose name is known to DispatchLIVE, declined to comment.

But his colleague, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said the paramedics decided to down tools until their only ambulance was disinfected and they had been tested for the coronavirus.

“We asked that we also be tested, as much as we know we have been practising social distance and adhering to the lockdown regulations,” the paramedic said.

“This affects service delivery because there is only one ambulance for this area.

“We will not work until the results come back. We can’t risk our lives.”

“The manager was supposed to have told us immediately after she knew about this but she [allegedly] decided to hide it from us for days.

“As much as we have passion for what we do — helping needy communities — we have to draw the line and we say  our health comes first.”

Mabuyane received a call from police minister Bheki Cele on Saturday in which the minister told him that the Eastern Cape was the most “non-compliant” of SA’s provinces when it came to regulations for funeral attendance.

The premier said funerals were a headache for the provincial government.

“Most of the cases that are now giving us this growth in the statistics are linked to those two funerals,” Mabuyane said.

“It’s a fact and of course this [infection at the East London Correctional Centre]  is linked to such funerals.

“That is a challenge and we are working on it.

“We are above 90% in our tracing of individuals who are affected,” he said.

By Sandiso Phaliso – DispatchLIVE

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