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Concern as miners set to return to N Cape

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“Our next step is to do surveillance and also hot-spot testing or random testing, where we will go to populated areas and do testing. This will be from next month.”

WHILE the Northern Cape has a low Covid-19 infection rate, with only four active cases currently, this could change once mines recall their workers from other provinces when the country moves to Level 4 of the lockdown on Friday.

The Northern Cape MEC for Health, Mase Manopole, said during the launch of the department’s door-to-door screening campaign in Galeshewe on Thursday that while the John Taolo Gaetsewe District had no positive cases currently, the department had to consider the movement of people when doing its provincial assessment.

“When we move to Level 4, it means that operations in the Province will increase. At some mines 50% of the workers are from other provinces and they are going to come back. The mines that we have engaged with have assured us that they are going to test them and will follow the guidelines set out by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) for Covid-19,” said Manopole.

The MEC said that the mines she had visited had indicated that they had also set up quarantine sites for their own workers and would also undertake screening. “They will provide us with the statistics on a daily basis on workers who have been screened.”

She added that the department would continue to engage with the mines. “We have visited two or three mines and we will continue with these visits, while the team will also do random visits to mines to ensure that they are complying to the guidelines.”

Manopole confirmed further that the Province had 17 positive cases to date, with 13 recoveries. “This means we have four active cases currently. We are also progressing well with recoveries.”

She reassured residents that the low number of cases in the Province did not mean that the department was not testing for Covid-19.

“The criteria and the protocol for testing is set out by the World Health Organization as well as the NICD (National Institute for Communicable Diseases). First it was four and now it is two sets of questions that we ask regarding symptoms. That dictates who we have to test.”

She said that 450 000 people had already been screened in the Northern Cape.

“The screening dictates whether you test, so that we don’t do random tests. From next month we will analyse our screening to determine which areas are hot spots and then we will test in those areas. We are guided in this by the advisory committee appointed by the national minister, who analyses the data.

“Our next step is to do surveillance and also hot-spot testing or random testing, where we will go to populated areas and do testing. This will be from next month.”

Manopole confirmed that there had been a delay in the supply of mobile testing units in the Province.

“We received only one unit about two weeks ago. But currently all of them have arrived so we now have six, which have been distributed  to all the districts. In the Frances Baard District, we have one in Sol Plaatje and one in the district. The first unit we received was left in Namaqua after I visited there last week.”

Manopole meanwhile appealed to doctors to avail themselves to service rural areas in the Province. “We have challenges in getting doctors to service our rural areas, for example JTG, even those who we have given bursaries to do not want to come back. We are appealing to our people to avail themselves to service our communities in the rural areas. We want to ensure everyone in the Province is serviced and has access to health care services.”

She stated that currently the Province is being assisted by foreign doctors, particularly a cohort of Cuban doctors who arrived during the fourth administration and their contracts were renewed.

Manopole added that the Northern Cape has a total of 1 360 quarantine beds throughout all the districts. 

“All the districts have quarantine sites. The first quarantine site was here in the Frances Baard District at Harmony Home, who accommodated the cases from Phokwane. These were people who tested positive and, although their symptoms were mild, they could not self-isolate as the environment was not conducive. So we provided the quarantine site at Harmony Home, but they have now recovered and have gone back home.”

She said that two quarantine sites in the Province were currently operating. “This is in the ZF Mgcawu District at Die Eiland and in Namaqua.” Both are accommodating South Africans who returned through the borders from Namibia, but need to quarantine before returning to their homes.