Premier Oscar Mabuyane has announced that every person who dies in the Eastern Cape would be tested for Covid-19 before their bodies are released to their families, but health MEC Sindiswa Gomba said there are not enough testing kits for such an exercise.
Mabuyane was addressing the media in Bhisho on Tuesday on a new community-based strategy to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which he said was “now galloping”.
Mabuyane said in addition to testing every corpse for Covid-19, the provincial coronavirus command council had revised the number of people permitted to attend funerals down to immediate family only.
There were 38,081 Covid-19 confirmed cases in the province at the time of writing on Tuesday, 22,022 recoveries and 528 deaths.
Mabuyane said: “We are saying all deaths, even if due to other conditions, must be tested so we know those left behind are safe. We have many people who die at home due to comorbidities. People must be tested, even if it is posthumous.”
However, in an interview Gomba told DispatchLIVE there were “not enough” testing kits in the province.
“There is no province that has its own test kits. There will never be enough kits. People die while they are waiting for tests or they die at home. There is no one who says the death is from Covid-19 because the person has not been tested.
“After funerals we get people who come forward with symptoms, suggesting the person buried could have been positive. That does not give us the correct provincial Covid-19 statistics,” she said.
Mabuyane said the province was recording 2,000 new cases daily.
“We are now reaching a point where people will not bury their loved ones with others. We will no longer be talking about 50 people at funerals. People will be buried by children and siblings. We have already received complaints from funeral parlours that they are being overwhelmed.
“We are the second highest after Gauteng, and even above the Western Cape, with daily stats, so this shows the infection rate is galloping somehow.”
Bhisho was ramping up its fight against Covid-19 by introducing a community-based Covid-19 response plan in the province and in 87 wards in Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay metros, Mabuyane said.
“We are taking the fight against Covid-19 to wards with high numbers of cases. We will bring on board all stakeholders in the form of a ward command council to work together to manage the spread of the virus.
“We are calling for a paradigm shift from a top-down to a bottom-up approach. People are folding their arms, waiting for government and police to tell them ‘don’t do this and don’t do that’.”
“People must be concerned about those who are loitering. Every street, every voting district, every community must take responsibility about people’s movements,” he said.
“It’s about being patriotic, it’s about every individual, it’s about protecting the country. It’s no longer about the government. We want to talk to our people and not talk at them,” he said.
The premier declared war against corruption, vowing that the suspicious R4.8m Covid-19 door-to-door campaign invoices in the OR Tambo district municipality would not be tolerated.
He said he had already written to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking him to deploy the Special Investigative Unit to investigate the matter.
DispatchLIVE reported that Phathilizwi Training Institute submitted invoices of R3m and R1.8m in May for four days’ work. The company claimed to have embarked on a door-to-door campaign in Mhlontlo, Port St Johns and Nyandeni municipalities, teaching residents about the dangers of the coronavirus.
The invoices, which were leaked online, have received widespread condemnation with the DA laying a complaint with the police and the Hawks launching an investigation.
Mabuyane did not mince his words, saying those found to be in the wrong would be held to account.
“We were not surprised when it happened because we knew there will be chance-takers who would use the pandemic to get rich quickly,” he said, adding they had instructed accounting officers to be extra-vigilant before approving payments.
A conviction in the invoices saga would serve as a deterrent to other would-be looters, he said.
Mabuyane said he was happy the Hawks were already investigating, and said co-operative governance & tradition affairs MEC Xolile Nqatha would also investigate the matter.
Mabuyane said although quarantine facilities in the province had not reached 50% capacity, the government was converting 18 state-owned facilities including museums, school hostels, nursing colleges and training centres into field hospitals.
He said a major problem in the province was infected people who refused to be quarantined at state facilities.
He urged people with underlying conditions not to isolate at home.
“Come to hospital. We have created beds in hospitals for isolation. When you need oxygen and a ventilator you must be able to get help immediately. We are a vulnerable province and we know the health profiles of our people.”