Automotive giant Volkswagen SA (VWSA) handed over the keys to the Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni field hospital on Tuesday.
The event was attended by health minister Zweli Mkhize who was on hand to give the keynote address.
Phase one of the facility hosts 1,400 beds and once phase three is completed, about 3,300 beds will be availed, 700 short of the original 4,000 planned beds.
Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, was also in attendance, and said the reason for the decrease in planned beds was to maintain social distancing regulations.
Mkhize warned that SA was moving towards a devastating and decimating storm.
“As a country we’re riding into that storm. Our positive cases will increase, deaths will increase,” Mkhize said.
“Flattening the curve is not a one-day episode but needs everyone to play their part.
“Restricting the movement of people is what reduced infection. Whatever benefit we got was limited during the time of the lockdown.”
The field hospital, named after health activist Dr Chabula-Nxiweni, came as a result of a R80m donation from the German government and more than R20m donated by VWSA.
VWSA managing director Thomas Schaefer announced that R12m of the German funding would go towards beefing up the national health laboratory in Port Elizabeth
“Delays in the labs causes unnecessary anxiety,” he said.
“The GIZ has reallocated R12m to the Bay national laboratory to assist in speeding up the process of testing and for people to receive their results faster,” he said.
With 94 deaths in the province, Mabuyane said among the biggest challenges was that people were dying in self-isolation at home.
“People with underlying conditions must be isolated in hospitals so they have access to doctors.
“The provincial government is doing everything in its power to fight [the pandemic]. We plead with our people to fear this virus. It’s here,” he said.
Lotz said the crisis could only be tackled through solidarity.
“We’ve joined forces in the metro to help tackle the crisis. There are a lot of institutions involved and it starts with the minister of health.
“VW has been committed to the region for many decades. This is an example of what the private and public sector can do for the good of the people.
“It feels weird opening a facility one hopes would never be used. The peak is yet to come but we’re not there yet,” Lotz said.
Bay acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye thanked VWSA for its commitment to the city.
“We’ve witnessed the devastation caused by Covid-19.
“The German intervention marks a milestone in the efforts of fighting this virus,” Buyeye said.