STATEMENT BY THE PREMIER OF KWAZULU NATAL, HON. MR SIHLE ZIKALALA, TO PROVIDE AN UPDATE ON THE STATUS QUO REGARDING COVID – 19 IN THE PROVINCE, 05 JULY 2020

 

MEMBERS OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL

OFFICIALS FROM THE DEPARTMENTS OF HEALTH; EDUCATION; AND EDTEA

MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA

DISTINGUISHED GUESTS

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

We once again welcome you to this media briefing, whose aim is to keep the people of KZN informed of where we are regarding this invisible enemy that is COVID – 19.

CONDOLENCES TO KZN’S FALLEN ENTERTAINERS

We begin this briefing on a sombre note as we mark the demise yesterday of two giants in the world of entertainment; acclaimed playwright Welcome Msomi and veteran actress Mary Twala. Msomi is globally known for his adaptation of the theatre play Umabatha, which was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.   Msomi received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Theatre from the Arts & Culture Trust in 2012; was a chairperson of the Living Legends Legacy programme; and had also served on several boards.

During her distinguished career as an entertainer, Mary Twala acted in a number of productions such as Sarafina, Hlala Kwabafileyo, Yizo-Yizo, Muvhango and Generations. It is ironic that she passed away yesterday, on what would have been the birthday of her equally famous late husband Ndaba Mhlongo.

To underscore the richness of her talents, Mary Twala was nominated for an Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for a movie called Taxi to Soweto; and also received the esteemed Order of Ikhamanga from president Cyril Ramaphosa in 2019. May their souls rest in eternal peace.

100 DAYS OF COVID – 19

Yesterday marked exactly 100 days since the implementation of the lockdown and country’s two COVID – 19 deaths in South Africa, which occurred in the Western Cape, and were announced on 26 March 2020. A lot has happened since then.

The country has since conducted 1,7 million tests, with a total of 177 124 positive cases, 2952 deaths, and 86 298 recoveries.

Whereas last Sunday our Province had registered 7786 confirmed COVID cases, 112 deaths, and 3417 recoveries; these figures have, over the past week alone, grown astronomically to 13 984 positive cases, 182 deaths, and 4197 recoveries.

This represents the biggest jump to date, which once again bears testimony to the fact that we are well and truly on our way towards reaching our peak of COVID – 19 in the Province, and indeed in the country.

IMPACT ON RESOURCES

The exponential growth in the number of patients who had to be admitted after getting tested has resulted in a higher COVID – 19 bed occupancy rate, which currently stands at 10 % of the active cases. About 29% (n=283) of that comes from the public health facilities, and 71 % (n=694) in the private sector as of 04 July 2020.

On 4 July 2020, the province had 977 patients admitted in both private (n=694, 71%) and public (n=283, 29%) hospitals.

A total of 121 patients (12%) were admitted in intensive care unit in both public (n=27) and private facilities (n=94). Of those admitted in ICU, 37% were ventilated (n=45).

A total of 160 patients (16%) were admitted in high care units in both private (n=137) and public (n=23) facilities.

CAPACITY AT FIELD HOSPITALS, WHERE WE ARE TREATING COVID PATIENTS WHO ARE STABLE, REMAINS AS FOLLOWS:

Field hospital

Category

Capacity

Occupied

Vacant

Admissions

Discharges

Transfers

Montclair Lodge

Isolation

156

3

153

0

1

0

Coastlands DBN

Quarantine

250

15

237

2

0

0

City Lodge DBN

Quarantine

140

11

129

0

10

0

City Lodge Umhlanga

Quarantine

163

0

163

0

0

0

Coastlands Umhlanga

Quarantine

136

0

136

0

0

0

PMB Showground

Isolation

254

20

235

5

0

0

Total

 

1 099

49

1 053

7

11

0

 

TRENDS/HOTSPOTS

Ethekwini District has the highest infection rate (135 cases per 100 000) followed by UMgungundlovu. UMgungundlovu District had drastic increase in incidence rate from 26-125 cases per 100 000 population in 11 days (22-4 July 2020). In fact, recently, UMgungundlovu District has been reporting more cases than ILembe daily. UMkhanyakude is the only district with less than 10 cases per 100 000 population provincially.

 

Distribution of cases and deaths by district, from 5 Mar -4 Jul 2020

District

New cases

%. New cases

Total cases

%.Total

Deaths

Case Fatality rate (%)

EThekwini

578

47.1

7 666

54.8

128

1.7

ILembe

51

4.2

1 054

7.5

8

0.8

UMgungundlovu

239

19.5

1 833

13.1

8

0.4

UThukela

39

3.2

631

4.5

13

2.1

King Cetshwayo

94

7.7

625

4.5

5

0.8

UGu

68

5.5

525

3.8

6

1.1

Amajuba

45

3.7

393

2.8

1

0.3

UMkhanyakude

10

0.8

128

0.9

3

2.3

Harry Gwala

24

2.0

288

2.1

8

2.8

Zululand

40

3.3

252

1.8

2

0.8

UMzinyathi

20

1.6

182

1.3

0

0.0

Unallocated

19

1.5

407

2.9

0

0.0

Total

1 227

100.0

13 984

100.0

182

1.3

 

DENIALISM

We have absorbed with extreme worry a number of instances in which people appear to be in denial about the very existence of COVID – 19. This is merely on the basis that they do not know anyone who has died because of this disease. We want to strongly denounce this kind of thinking because it poses the risk of increasing the rate of transmissions due to reckless behaviour. COVID – 19 is here. It is deadly, and will cause unprecedented devastation if we do not change the way we behave.

LABORATORY STATUS IN THE PROVINCE

Of the 1 227 new cases reported on 4 Jul 2020, private laboratories confirmed 74% of the cases. The overall proportion of cases confirmed by the private laboratories were 63%.

FATALITIES, 28 MARCH-1 JUL 2020

The province recorded four new COVID-19 related deaths on 4 Jul 2020. A total of 182 deaths (1.3%) were reported in 10 (91%) of the 11 districts since the beginning of the pandemic. EThekwini Metro Municipality contributes 70% of the reported deaths (n=128). The median age for deaths is 62 years (range 24-96). Male patients continue to dominate the fatalities (52%, n=95). The proportion of deaths in female patients increases daily. Deceased female patients dominate in those aged 81 years and above.

 

COMORBIDITIES (DECEASED)

The most common recorded comorbidities amongst the deceased include hypertension (31%) and diabetes mellitus (32%). A total of 16 (6%) deceased patients were reported to have been HIV positive. The number of deceased patients with no recorded comorbidities is also increasing.

RECOVERIES

The overall proportion of recoveries for the province is 33% (n=4 197).

CONTACT TRACING STATUS

KwaZulu-Natal province managed to identify 20 316 contacts to date. The province managed to monitor more than 90% of the identified contacts (n=20 300). Of the total monitored contacts, 99% had their specimens collected. The positivity rate amongst contacts was 4.7% (n=939/20 133).

 

LATEST ON THE ECONOMY

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected various economic agents including enterprises, households and individuals in unprecedented ways.

The easing of lockdown restrictions to Level 3 has brought some kind of relief that has seen increased economic activity across various sectors of the economy. This development will tone down the otherwise huge effects of the lockdown that had since started filtering to the national economic data, as recently reported in the GDP and Employment statistical data releases.

GDP contracted by 2% in the first quarter of 2020, whilst the rate of joblessness increased to 30.1% for the country as a whole and for KZN.

In order to better understand the challenges and needs of the various business sectors within the province, the EDTEA Executive authority conducts weekly engagements with selected sectoral and industry representatives.

The weekly engagements have been complemented by a provincial survey to establish an evidence-based understanding on the effect of COVID-19 on the provincial business spectrum. The survey confirmed that at a high level, some of the top challenges confronting business in the province include:

  • cancellation or reduction of orders due to subdued demand on the back of low levels of incomes among the public, a considerable number of whom have not been working during Lockdown Levels 5 and 4.
  • cash flow constraints. Most companies have reported that the eligibility criteria for most relief funds offered by the government exclude a number of them further worsening their cash flow positions. In cases where business establishments have accessed the government relief funds, they have reported that the funding instruments are not agile enough to respond to the real and immediate business challenges.
  • A number of businesses report difficulties relating to employees contracting the COVID 19 virus compelling them to further shut down for building disinfection in line with the provisions of the lockdown regulations. This negatively affects productivity at the same time creating heightened safety anxiety amongst other staff.
  • Most companies are facing closure and we are seeing spikes in Section 189 processes –retrenchments

 

BACK TO SCHOOL ARRANGEMENTS- COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS

The number of infected individuals in our schools is increasing. This week the number of reported positive cases is at 429 which is an increase of 242 from 187 cases we reported last week. The new figure includes 306 teachers, 81 learners and 42 other employees of the Department. UMgungundlovu District remains the hardest hit district with 93 positive cases. The breakdown per district is as follows:

We are saddened to announce that five (5) of employees from the Department of Education have succumbed to COVID-19. They are two (2) teachers from Zululand, one (1) teacher from Umzinyathi, one (1) teacher from Umlazi and a security guard from ILembe.

The total number of affected schools is currently 345 schools in the province. The good news is that 236 schools have returned to full operation after all due processes were followed. Other 70 schools are ready to receive teachers and learners back tomorrow for teaching and learning. The 39 schools that reported positive cases on July 2 and 3 are expected to return to normal by not later than Wednesday.  

It is expected that new cases will keep coming forcing some of the schools to take a break while dealing with issues of screening, testing and decontamination.

The Department will release a protocol, on Monday, to further clarify steps to be followed when positive cases are reported in the Department. This will bring uniformity in the manner the entire Department will deal with both suspected and positive cases as it is important at times such as this to maintain stability by eliminating factors that may cause anxiety and confusion.

We always encourage Departments to maximise their co-operation in addressing challenges emanating from this pandemic.  

 

ADDITIONAL GRADES RETURNING TO SCHOOL ON 6TH JULY 2020. The Minister of the Department of Basic Education; Mrs Angie Motshekga on Thursday, 2 July 2020, hosted the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) which agreed on the grades that will return to schools tomorrow and subsequently other grades at a later stage. That decision was reached after careful consideration of all factors presented to the CEM.

The national decision was that Grades 6, 11 and R will return to school on Monday, 06th July 2020. KwaZulu-Natal has, however, opted to delay the return of Grade R to schools until a later date that will be communicated in due course.

In preparation for the returning grades, the department has purchased additional COVID-19 essentials. The Department has also a challenge of ensuring that both learners and teachers who have underlying health conditions are protected from the virus. Necessary measures have been put in place to support the learners and the teachers. Measures are in place to ensure that there will be no class without a teacher.

 

CONCLUSION – WHERE ARE WE AND WHERE ARE WE GOING AS KZN PROVINCE

As grim as the current statistics are, the curve has not yet exceeded the projected prevalence and bed occupancy rates. However, we must hasten to emphasise once again that we are now in the eye of the storm. It is vital that we abide by the regulations and take all the necessary safety precautions. We should, at all times, be mindful of our safety during social interaction; and adhere to protocols such as avoiding large gatherings; practice social distancing of at least 1.5 metres; wash our hands regularly with hand sanitiser or soap and water; not to shake hands; and cover our nose and mouth when we sneeze or cough.

WHAT TO DO IF SOMEONE TESTS POSITIVE

If someone tests positive in the workplace, do not panic. Contact the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on 0800 029 999; or the Provincial Hotline on 033 846 6000; or use the the WhatsApp number 060 012 3456.

Thank you.