BRIEFING STATEMENT BY THE PREMIER OF KWAZULU NATAL, HONORABLE SIHLE ZIKALALA: KZN COVID -19 UPDATE AND STATE OF READINESS FOR SCHOOL RE-OPENING - 07 JUNE 2020

 

GREETINGS LADIES AND GENTLEMEN;

REFLECTION ON YOUTH MONTH AND TRIBUTE TO STALWART ANDREW MLANGENI

Ladies and gentlemen, as you are aware, June is Youth Month, which gives us the opportunity to remember the youth of 1976 who stood up against the Apartheid government and laid down their lives fighting for freedom and the right to equal education.

This year marks 44 years since the uprising, and 2020 Youth Month is being commemorated under the theme: “Youth Power: Growing South Africa together in the period of Covid-19.”

This is a call for young people to seek out opportunities for self-development, and for participation in our economy, through various Government agencies such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).

We also congratulate Struggle stalwart ubaba u-Andrew Mlangeni, who is the only remaining Rivonia trialist, who celebrated his 95th birthday yesterday. In 1961, ubaba uMlangeni was among the first to be sent for military training outside the country, in China. Upon his return in 1963, he was arrested after state witnesses told the court that he was one of the people responsible for recruiting and training an armed force. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. He was released in 1989, after serving 27 years, when negotiations between the ANC and the government began.

As we enjoy the fruits of freedom today, we remain indebted to people like him and many others, who put their lives on the line during the fight against Apartheid and other forms of racial segregation and oppression. Sithi mpilonhle, mpilonde, as we send our warmest wishes to Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe, kuTata Andrew Mlangeni.

COVID – 19 STATUS QUO

Up to and including the 7th of June 2020, in our country, the number of people infected with the CORONA virus stands at forty-five thousand nine hundred and seventy-three (45 973).

There were two thousand five hundred and thirty-nine (2 539) new cases and 952 deaths. The province of KwaZulu-Natal has itself experienced an increase in the covid-19 cases. The numbers of the infected stand at three thousand and sixteen (3 016). There have been sixty-one (61) deaths experienced by the province, and the number of recovered people stands at one thousand three hundred and seventy-eight (1378).

EThekwini and ILembe District, continue to contribute more than 80% of the total cases provincially (n=2 465).

EThekwini Metro Municipality contributes 82% of the reported deaths followed by Ilembe. Male patients dominate the fatalities (61%, n=37). The median age for deaths is 66 years (range 39-91)

In terms of the epidemic curves per district. Almost all the districts received daily new cases since the beginning of June 2020 except Zululand and UMzinyathi. EThekwini Metro Municipality have been receiving new cases daily since early March. UMkhanyakude, UMzinyathi, Zululand and Harry Gwala are the least affected districts.

 

DISTRIBUTION OF CASES AND DEATHS BY DISTRICT, KWAZULU-NATAL

In terms of the analysis, we can now confirm that the majority of Ethekwini cases and fatalities are coming from the South and North sub-districts followed by the West sub-district.   Female cases continue to dominate with more than half of the confirmed cases (55%) province wide. Among the new cases received on the 7th June 2020, slightly more than half were male. The proportion of children continue to increase with increase in female cases. Male cases peak between the ages 25-39 years. Female cases peak from 25-49 years.   In KZN we are observing a pattern that the majority of our cases are averaging between the ages of 25-39 years.

 

TRENDS EMERGING FROM DISTRICTS

The districts of ILembe and EThekwini continue to remain the hotspots, judging by the numbers of people infected and by the incidence risk. The overall incidence risk for the province was 13.8 per 100 000 populations, calculated using active cases. ILembe District has the highest incidence risk, at 47,4 per 100 000; while EThekwini shows an incidence risk of 26,1 per 100 000.

These two districts are followed by UMgungundlovu and Uthukela, in terms of numbers. More effort is being put in all these districts with a view that if we manage to control the spread in them, it will be possible to have an impact in the whole province.

PROGRESS MADE IN SCREENING AND TESTING

The government, through the Department of Health, continues do the screening and testing in all the corners of the province. We have as such screened more than 5,2 million and tested more than 94 000 people.

A total of 32 742 samples were tested from the community testing and screening, 353 cases tested positive (1% proportion positivity).

That said, we are worried about the backlog in terms of the return of the results. We are, however, aware that the Minister of Health is dealing with the challenge.

HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS/ISOLATIONS

On 6 Jun 2020, the province had a total of 327 patients admitted in both private (n=126, 39%) and public (n=201, 61%) hospitals. Public hospitals continue to admit more patients than private hospitals. However, more patients admitted in private hospital require intensive care. According to the latest data received, 22% of those patients in ICUs are ventilated (n=6).

CLUSTER CASES

As the country moved to level 3 and most sectors of the economy started to become active, we have observe a rapid surge in cluster cases being reported. As at 7 June 2020, we have recorded a total of 259 cluster cases (70 from a Tyre company, 120 from a warehouse Retail, 13 from a Memorial Hospital, 9 from the Airport and 47 from a production Company.

STRENGTHENING THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID – 19: RECRUITMENT OF FOOT SOLDIERS AND BED CAPACITY

We also welcome the KZN Department of Health’s efforts in preparing the province for the period ahead. We expect that in winter more people will display more flu-like symptoms, and as such will need the Government to be more vigilant in managing clients who come with these and other symptoms and diseases. In this regard, we have prepared 7111 COVID-19 ready beds all around the province.

We have authorized the Department of Health to employ, on a six months’ contract, nurses who are required to manage the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases. The human resource processes towards this have already started and these personnel will be distributed according to the need in different areas and hospitals.

We are pleased with the contribution that this will make in terms of job-creation.

Among the areas where these resources will be distributed are Clairwood Hospital, Richmond Hospital, Royal Showgrounds Field Hospital, and Durban Exhibition Centre Field Hospital. These are prepared by the provincial and national Department of Health, with only the Durban Exhibition Centre still to be built.

IMPACT OF ALOCHOL

As we have started the Alert Level 3, we note the sudden increase in the numbers of accidents reported. These may be associated with drinking and driving. We implore the South African Police Services to ensure that they arrest people where a need for that is identified.

We are pleased to learn that challenges in the different hospitals are discussed between the unions and the department during monthly meetings that have been initiated. These meetings are led by the Head of Department and from time to time, the MEC will attend these meetings to discuss other pertinent matters. Among the discussions in these meetings will be the issue of occupational health and safety in the workplace. This is a welcome process.

MANAGEMENT OF POSITIVE COVID CASES

We are also worried by the increasing numbers of health care workers who get to be infected by the coronavirus. This has led to the department developing and distributing guidelines of how to manage the infection in the areas where these workers would be working. We must say that the expectation that once an infection is confirmed in an area in the health facility then that area must close, is not correct.

The guidelines give a clear indication on how each area must be managed once a case is found. The intermittent incidents of labour unrest associated with the infection of health care workers is discouraged. Employees and unions and management teams must engage, guided by these guidelines, and discuss how these matters are resolved.

Besides the use of these guidelines, all staff and individuals getting into the department of health and other government premises will be screened and their temperature checked every day. We ask this to be practiced in all areas visited by people. We also ask people to be cooperative when it comes to this process.

We call for co-operation from all employees, including the department of education employees. The cooperation is asked for from the parents and the scholars alike. The virus does not move. It is carried around as we move. We therefore encourage the use of face masks, washing of hands, use of sanitizers and other preventive methods. We all have to take the responsibility in trying to reduce the spread of the virus.

KZN’S FLATTER CURVE

So far KZN has maintained a flatter curve and constant accumulation of cases. KZN initially had a higher case fatality rate because of the hospital outbreaks that involved many sick and older patients, who were most at risk of severe disease and death when infected with the coronavirus. The number of deaths has since stabilized, and correlates better with cases, at a case fatality rate of 2%.

At this stage of the epidemic, we are monitoring very closely clustered infections “hotspots” so as to respond timeously and contain spread of infections to a wider region. We are also working on identifying vulnerable areas in KZN, and this will be identified through a vulnerability index that is currently being constructed, and we want to use this measure of vulnerability to stay ahead of the outbreaks, so that we don’t only protect people who are at risk or severe disease, but also areas at risk of severe outbreaks. As things stand, we feel we have a better grasp of the nature of our pandemic. We cannot know how things may change, and we continue to prepare ourselves for a possible surge of cases.

 

STATE OF READINESS FOR SCHOOL RE-OPENING

 

The Province of KwaZulu-Natal, like the rest of the country is scheduled re-open schools tomorrow. KwaZulu-Natal is the biggest system of education in the country with 6 148 schools, 90 000 educators and over 2,8 million learners. Given the work done over the past Month, the Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal is now ready to welcome learners from tomorrow 08 June 2020.

 

We have made efforts to respond to all the non-negotiable requirements and held consultative engagements with stakeholders in the Education Sector. In all the endeavours we have put in place, the priority is the safety of educators, leaners and all involved in the school management.

 

 

UPDATE ON PPE

 

We want to state upfront that there will be no compromise to the safety and well- being of our learners and teachers. Should symptoms or a case be identified at the school, the COVID-19 guideline for schools will commence. This will entail conducting a risk assessment, which entails contact mapping, tracing and screening. Based on the extent of exposure, a decision will be taken to either close or decontaminate.

Out of 6 148 Schools, it is pleasing to report that over 6044 schools are now ready to re-open tomorrow because all the non-negotiables have been met. A total of 104 schools are not yet ready and will therefore have a delayed opening.

The department has procured the PPEs and other essential for the next six months. Head Office will keep a reserve stock to accommodate any eventuality and will deploy visors, masks and disinfectants when required. Every leaner and teacher will be screened as they enter the school premises and data will be captured relating to temperature, co-morbidities, and all the critical information relating to COVID-19 pandemic.

 

SCREENING TESTING AND SOCIAL DISTANCING

 

The Department of Health and Social Development have made available 8000 Community Care Givers for purposes of screening of learners and teachers in schools. The Department of Public Works has allowed the Department of Education to recruit 6 000 EPWP beneficiaries across the province to be placed in schools to do screening as well since learner numbers are high in many schools.

Infrastructure has been provided to ensure social distancing, markers are in place and supervision will be done since the grade 12 and 7s will have access to the entire school. We re-iterate the point that in schools where we are not 100% ready, we will have a delayed opening.

 

WATER SUPPLY

We have noted that there are school who are still facing a challenge in relation to water provision. The challenge is not just a school problem but arises from a bigger problem of water provision within the broader community. It must be noted that KZN is a water scarce province. The most challenged districts are Zululand, Umkhanyakude, Ugu. We entered into agreements with the municipalities and a timetable has been created to ensure that schools have sustainable water supply. In addition to this effort, the Department of Basic Education has appointed Rand Water and also enlisted the services of SANDF to ensure maximum supply of water to all schools.

 

PROVISION OF MOBILE CLASSROOMS

We have provided mobile classrooms in 10 schools. Three of these schools were vandalised during the National Lockdown period and seven (7) were damaged by storm. The number of mobile classroom units being provided are 28. All the contractors have completed the installation of the mobile classrooms.

 

THE PLAN TO REPAIR THE THREE BURNT SCHOOLS:

The implementing agent for the following schools has been appointed; Bambazi High School in Uthukela District , Edgeton Primary School in Harry Gwala District and Mzuvele Secondary School in Pinetown District The repair works are anticipated to commence on the 15th June 2020.

 

PROVISION AND SERVICING OF MOBILE TOILETS

The Department of Education is servicing mobile toilets in 461 schools. The number of mobile toilet units being serviced are 3 607. The servicing of mobile toilets has been completed in 371 schools. The Department of Education is also providing new mobile toilets in 604 schools. The number of mobile toilet units being provided are 3 626. This task is expected to be completed by the 8th June 2020.

 

ORIENTATION: SMTS, TEACHERS & PLAN FOR LEARNERS’ ORIENTATION

We have conducted COVID-19 orientation to most of our Education employees and this will continue on a regular basis covering leaners, teachers and the entire school management teams.

 

SCREENING IN DEDICATED LEARNER TRANSPORT

For this purpose the Department has recruited 475 screeners. Most vehicles have been provided with disinfectants, hand sanitisers and thermometers. Drivers Assistants will be provided to all buses and they will be responsible for ensuring compliance with all the hygiene requirements for protecting learners against COVI-19.

 

READINESS REPORT FOR NATIONAL SCHOOL NUTRITION PROGRAMME (NSNP)

The National School Nutrition Programme has appointed service providers for all clusters and service providers have delivered adequate quantities to all schools.   Cleanliness is key in the kitchen and food safety training programmes are conducted annually. As such, all current food handlers have been adequately trained on kitchen safety and personal hygiene. The COVID-19 requirements are an addition. The addition being the following:

  1. Wearing of masks
  2. Wearing of gloves (during cleaning)
  3. Using a surface sanitizer/ disinfectant after cleaning with soap and water
  4. Use of hand sanitizer/disinfectant after washing hands with soap and water
  5. Practicing of social distancing

 

CONCLUSION

Given the work done by the Department of Education working with all stakeholders, the provincial government is confident that schools in the province are ready to welcome learners on tomorrow, Monday 08 June 2020.

 

I thank you.