Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane on Tuesday reassured the country that his province was doing everything in its power to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The assurance comes after 16,895 infections – which accounts for 16.6% of the country’s total of 101,590 infections – were recorded by Monday.
The province has the second highest number of Covid-19 fatalities (303) and recoveries (8,035).
“We are doing everything possible in our power to really contain the spread of this virus. We are working around the clock. We are having sleepless nights,” he said.
Mabuyane was speaking at the opening of the Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxikweni Hospital, which was built with funds from Volkswagen SA and the German government.
He said the hospital had created an opportunity for the provincial government to save lives against the global challenge of Covid-19.
“The investment into this facility comes at a right time as we are seeing a significant increase in the number of confirmed Covid-19 in our province,” he said.
“We are really pleading with our people to respect this virus, to fear this virus. It is here; it must be felt by all.
“The availability of this facility speaks to our broader strategy of fighting against coronavirus in our province. Among other things, our strategy calls on [us] to invest in sustainable solutions such as health services, facilities and sustainable infrastructure.”
The recent spike in the number of cases signalled a greater need for hospitalisation, according to Mabunyane.
“There is a need for hospitalisation and here we will have most of our people having their lives saved. We will definitely change gears and accelerate efforts to save more lives,” he said.
Speaking about the challenges confronting the province, Mabuyane said the majority of people who lost their lives had been asymptomatic.
“The biggest challenge in the number of lives we’re losing are people who are in self-isolation. The challenge of comorbidities with our people, many people are people who are saying I don’t feel anything, are people who are asymptomatic at home, who are always challenged by this,” he said.
“You speak to someone today, saying that ‘I’ve just received my results but I’m not feeling anything.’ You wake up tomorrow, that person is dead.”
The premier has since called on every person with underlying medical conditions or comorbidities to be isolated in public health-care facilities so they can have access to doctors and nurses at any given time.
Mabuyane described the opening of the new hospital as a “progressive way of ploughing back to the community”.
He said the provincial government had already ensured that medical facility operated optimally through the appointment of a chief executive officer, five doctors, 14 nurses and 80 community health-care workers and support services.
He urged the appointed healthcare workers to save the lives of patients but also to exercise caution for their own health.
“We want all our frontline health professionals at work, working very hard to save more lives. I know this virus is challenging to health workers and it is creating lot of pressure, fear, anxiety among them and [their] families. However, we should not let this virus cost more lives.”
Mabuyane said the province would increase the provision of psycho-social support for health-care workers, and of personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers and patients.
The premier also welcomed the appointment of 15 medical experts, all from the Eastern Cape, who offered to provide support and advise to the provincial government to navigate through the pandemic.
National health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize congratulated the province for naming the hospital after the late Chabula-Nxiweni. He paid homage to her groundbreaking work and activism for safe circumcision.
“Towards Christmas last year, South Africa witnessed the dark side of initiation. At least 25 young boys died during the initiation season. When we came to the Eastern Cape to gain a deeper understanding of the issues, I was heartbroken by the stories I heard: human stories of suffering where young people lost their lives and some were mutilated. Therefore … I can only appreciate this war which you must have waged against all manner of cultural difficulties,” he said.