The Ndlambe Covid-19 Joint Operations Committee met once again on Tuesday via Microsoft Teams digital platform, led by Mayor Kululwa Ncamiso, the municipal manager, municipal directors and representatives from various sectors including Health, Education, Safety and Security, Business and Tourism, Stenden disaster management, Sarah Baartman District representatives and others.
Level 3 preparations: As the economy begins to open in a phased manner, assessments were undertaken of various sectors within Ndlambe:
Education: A meeting was held between the Ndlambe Technical JOC team, Department of Education and Ndlambe Municipality recently, to ascertain the level of preparedness at the 28 schools within the Ndlambe district as they prepare to re-open on 1st June. The re-opening of schools will be a phased approach with Grade 7 and 12 pupils being the first to return to school.
Critical to the reopening of the schools is a reliable water supply, thus a water infrastructure audit of all schools was undertaken by the Municipality. The level of the Sarel Hayward dam is now over 50%, solving many of the water problems experienced during the severe drought earlier this year. Prior to lockdown, 114 water tanks were delivered to schools to supplement water supplies as a back-up drought system. It was confirmed that all tanks have been connected to the water supply at the various schools.
Schools were requested to do a complete audit of the state of their ablution facilities. Whilst the municipality can assist with minor repairs, schools have been requested to apply their allocated Repairs and Maintenance budgets supplied by the Dept of Education to repair water and sanitation issues as a matter of urgency.
At the time of the JOC meeting, PPE for schools was being delivered in Alexandria for distribution to schools throughout Ndlambe.
Covid -19 Protocols: SASSA and Social Development offices will also open under Level 3, and a meeting has been scheduled to ascertain the level of preparedness by these sector departments. Ndlambe Municipality will re-open with strict protocols in place and anyone entering offices of the Municipality will be required to wear masks and to make us of the hand sanitiser provided.
Clinics: All clinics in Ndlambe have sufficient stocks of PPE and report that screening throughout Ndlambe is almost complete with over 31,000 screenings having taken place. Clinics continue to be sanitised by Ndlambe Municipality on a regular basis. It is anticipated that the need for testing will increase,and all Clinics are preparing areas for this purpose. It should be noted that as from the 1 June 2020, childhood immunisations will be given at clinics and not in the community and the public is assured that the necessary safety precautions will be followed e.g. the use of a dedicated room for this purpose.
Marjorie Parish TB Hospital: 82 staff have been trained, including security guards who have been trained to conduct basic screening. Daily Covid-19 meetings are held at the hospital and to date 160 people have been screened at this facility.
Port Alfred Hospital: The hospital is fully on board and prepared.
Safety and Security: Funerals continue to be a source of concern, especially in Nemato and Alexandria. The Mayor and SAPS held a meeting with all funeral directors to address compliance issues. SAPS have agreed to deploy more staff to monitor the start of the funeral, and funeral directors will introduce an attendance register prior to the start of funerals as this will assist with tracking and tracing should the need arise. No cooking will be allowed at funerals.
Business and Tourism Sectors: Lockdown continues to be devastating for business, and whilst lifting restrictions to Level 3 will assist, the tourism sector, comprising a major portion of businesses in Ndlambe is still unable to operate. Many businesses, across the board, have been unable to sustain the status quo and have either had to retrench staff, reduce pay, and in some instances, close down completely. The various relief funds and efforts have been a lifeline to many businesses, with TERS-UIF relief fund proving to be the most successful. Some businesses have taken advantage of the major banks Covid-19 bank loan relief scheme, but of course these are loans that need to be repaid.
Many businesses have had to rethink their business model going forward, with some re-engineering their businesses in a “start-from-scratch” mode. The easing of restrictions and opening of the deeds office will breathe some energy into the property and conveyancing market, and will provide opportunities for property investors.
Tourism will take a while to recover with accommodation and restaurants unable to operate at present. We continue to market tourism on social media platforms, and have uploaded themed videos to You Tube. A series of themed tours will soon be uploaded to the tourism website and social media platforms focusing on day trips and week-ends with the aim of attracting local Eastern Cape day trippers as this sector slowly opens up.
Ubuntu: In times of crisis the very best of humankind comes to the fore, and this is evident in the way that communities are helping each other. The Ndlambe Municipality Food Parcel Relief fund provided for 2,000 food parcels being distributed to the most vulnerable members of our communities earlier this month. After an appeal by the Mayor to donate towards this scheme, a further R10,000 has been received with more pledged. An announcement will be made in the near future with regard to the disbursement of further food parcel vouchers. Sunshine Coast Tourism have agreed to manage these donations, and enquiries in this regard can be directed to Sandy Birch and Dr. Wouter Hensens. The banking details for Sunshine Coast Tourism is: First National Bank (FNB). Port Alfred Branch and account number 62310501350. Reference: Covid19.
The various private feeding schemes initiated by members of the public, and most notably the Ndlambe Lockdown Group is to be commended. Thank you to all who have gone out of their way to assist vulnerable members of our communities in this time of need.
MAYOR KULULWA NCAMISO