STATEMENT BY THE PREMIER OF KWAZULU-NATAL, HON MR S. ZIKALALA, ON THE OCCASION OF A MEDIA BRIEFING TO PROVIDE AN UPDATE ON COVID – 19 AND OTHER MATTERS, ETHEKWINI DISASTER CENTRE, 20 SEPTEMBER 2020

 

KZN MEC for Health, Hon. Ms Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu,

Government Officials Present,

Members of the Media,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

INTRODUCTION AND WELCOME

Thank you for joining us, as always. We welcome all of you to this media briefing, as we continue to chart the progression of COVID – 19, which has changed our lives in ways we could never have imagined.

 

DE-ESCALATION TO LEVEL 1:

As the province of KwaZulu-Natal we wish to start by welcoming the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the country will, with effect from midnight today, de-escalate to Alert Level 1.  We wish, on behalf of the people of our province, to thank the leadership of His Excellency the President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the National Coronavirus Command Council, for their astute leadership in steering the country as we weathered one of the most devastating storms of our lifetime.

The commencement of alert level 1, signifies that the risk and the rate of infections that we have been exposed to has been brought to lower levels.

We can confirm that as KwaZulu-Natal we are heading for a smooth passage to Alert Level 1.  We really have come a long way as a nation, and as a province, in our battle against COVID – 19. We have moved from the confusion, fear, panic and anxiety that marked the early stages of its outbreak. We have done very well to heed the call by Government that this disease needed to be de-mystified and understood, so that we could be better-placed to contain its spread, and protect ourselves from acquiring it, or passing it on to others.

With the threat of COVID – 19 staring us in the face, Government had an existential dilemma: do you choose the economy over people’s lives? In the end, we chose to save lives.   When the history of Covid-19 and its devastating impact is recorded, the swift actions of our Government and the compromises and sacrifices made by many ordinary citizens will occupy those glorious chapters. 

RETURN OF THE KZN PUBLIC SERVICE TO FULL OPERATIONS

As we would remember, Government had made concessions with regards to the functioning of the public service during the lock down.  This related to rotation of staff, concessions to work from home due to a number of reasons including co-morbidities, and the dire need to comply with Covid-19 protocols.  There is now a need for all departments and municipalities in the province to review some of the arrangements made at the peak of the virus, and ensure that the public service reports back to work in full force so that it can drive the rebuilding process.  The Department of Public Service and Administration, as the line function Department, will guide us in this regard. However, we are directing that all of us prepare ourselves for the return to cover lost ground. We have to rebuild as if we are emerging from the ruins of a major war, and we need all our troops to the battle. 

 

REBUILDING THE ECONOMY:

COVID-19 has come at a huge cost and devastated our economy. We have had to contend with closure of businesses, loss of jobs, and livelihoods. Our entry into Level 1 after midnight tonight means most sectors of the economy will now be open. We take this as an opportunity to re-start our lives and rebuild our economy.  One of the most effective ways in which we can do this is to support the South African economy, and our Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), by buying goods and services that are locally made.

We also call on South Africans, particularly our young people, to not only look at getting employed, but to get into the spirit of entrepreneurship. They need to come up with innovative ways to seek and exploit economic opportunities, so that they can be the masters of their own destiny. 

As we look to rebuild the economy, we cannot over-emphasise the need to build a modern knowledge-economy populated by a workforce that is entrepreneurial in spirit and outlook, and which is numerically and scientifically literate, and competent with technology, and has problem-solving skills.

This is crucial in fostering economic development and competitiveness in this province, which is anchored on:

  • Developing and equipping highly skilled human capital with critical skills matching industry needs in priority economic sectors:
  • Creating new business opportunities and adding value to small medium enterprises and companies in technology and knowledge-based sectors;
  • Enhancing the synergy between industry, Government, academia and research;
  • Fostering entrepreneurship and incubating new innovative enterprises; and
  • Providing attractive collaborative spaces that bring together different emerging knowledge centres, organisations and communities;

 

ROLLING-OUT OUR STRATEGIC INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAMME

We will, in the coming weeks, launch the KZN Economic Recovery Plan where we will detail interventions to stimulate each sector of our economy.  Radical Economic Transformation will be our anchor programme as we build back a post Covid-19 “people’s economy” with new features and patterns representing the demographics of our country.

 

REVIVING THE TOURISM SECTOR:

The re-opening of the economy is a boon to the Tourism sector, which is one of the biggest contributors to job-creation. We are excited to see that there are already “good or nice-life problems” that we are hearing about in the hospitality industry.  There are areas where people are beginning to struggle to get accommodation due to places getting fully booked.

Our occupancy rates at the moment are as follows:

DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY

OCCUPANY RATE

eThekwini Metro

65%

 ILembe 

60%

Ugu

30%

uMgungundlovu

Pmb – 75%

Midlands Meander – 95%

Zululand

30&

Amajuba

50%

eZemvelo KZN Wildlife

30%

 

NEW INVESTMENTS

We welcome the news about new investments in the tourism sector. We have learned about South Africa’s first Hilton Garden Inn establishment, which is scheduled to open at Umhlanga Arch in November 2020. The 203 room Inn is owned by the Multiply Group and property development company Devmco.   We also learnt that on the 1st September 2020, the First Group opened a luxury wedding venue with a seven-suite villa on the Drakensberg, Swallow Cliff Hall.  Durban’s Edward Hotel on Durban’s Golden Mile (beachfront) will re-open in November 2020 under the full ownership of Tsogo Sun Hotels, which was a previous shareholder.

These investments are encouraging and are huge signs of confidence in our hospitality sector.

 

FAIRMONT ZIMBALI BUSINESS RESCUE

We have also noted that the IFA Fairmont Zimbali Hotel and resort has gone into business rescue, following difficulties experienced as a result of the country entering into lockdown in March, which brought the tourism industry to its knees. Government is in discussions with the owners in pursuit of a solution that will ensure the sustainability of this iconic tourism product on the North Coast of our destination, while safeguarding jobs.

We are adamant that by re-opening its doors, our tourism ‘recovery’ plan should not mean a mere return to old pre-COVID – 19 ways of doing things. This is a time for all of us to double our efforts and inject a renewed sense of verve and vigour into our work, in order to realise and fully exploit the country’s vast and diverse tourism potential.

 

COVID – 19 UDPATE:  LATEST TRENDS AND ANALYSIS

The number of cases reported in the province has declined drastically.  We must emphasise that we are still vigilant and on full alert. While regulations are being relaxed we are fully cognisant that the virus has not relaxed, it is still deadly and vicious.

Since the beginning of September the median number of cases reported dropped to 233 cases/daily (range 79-371).

The total number of infections in the province currently stands at 117 569; of which 7 034 are still active. Sadly, the province has had 2 531 deaths. It is, however, encouraging that 108 004 or 92 % have recovered.

Over the past two weeks, since we last had this media briefing, the province has registered 3 209 new infections, and 268 deaths.  You will notice that at some point we were registering between 3500 and 3900 new infections in one day.

Of the newly reported deaths, King Cetshwayo had the highest proportion of deaths at 54%; followed by Amajuba (31%). The province has had a total of 2 531 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The median age for the deaths was 51 years (IQR 42-62). Over half of the deceased were female (52%).

 

 

Distribution of cases and deaths by district, KwaZulu-Natal, 5 Mar-19 Sept 2020:

District

New cases

%. New cases

Total cases

%.Total

Total deaths

%. Total deaths

Case Fatality rate (%)

EThekwini

69

33.0

55 407

47.1

1 215

48.0

2.2

ILembe

18

8.6

6 409

5.5

59

2.3

0.9

UMgungundlovu

28

13.4

16 119

13.7

370

14.6

2.3

UThukela

2

1.0

4 988

4.2

128

5.0

2.5

King Cetshwayo

21

10.0

10 015

8.5

250

9.9

2.5

UGu

20

9.6

4 860

4.1

103

4.1

2.1

Amajuba

14

6.7

6 721

5.7

172

6.8

2.6

UMkhanyakude

15

7.2

2 535

2.2

63

2.5

2.5

Harry Gwala

3

1.4

2 351

2.0

52

2.1

2.2

Zululand

14

6.7

4 791

4.1

59

2.3

1.2

UMzinyathi

4

1.9

2 540

2.2

60

2.4

2.4

Unallocated

1

0.5

833

0.7

0

0.0

0.0

Total

209

100.0

117 569

100.0

2 531

100.0

2.2

 

INFECTED HEALTH CARE WORKERS:

A total of 7 360 health care workers (HCWs) were infected with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Above 70% of the infected HCWs have recovered. Of the total infected, 68 have unfortunately succumbed to the disease. May their souls rest in peace, and their families be comforted.

HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS/ISOLATIONS:

On 19 September 2020, the province had 640 patients admitted in both private (n=466, 73%) and public (n=174, 27%) hospitals. Of those admitted, 115 patients (18%) required intensive care services. Private hospitals had more patients in ICU (92%, n=106) than public facilities (8%, n=9). Among those who required intensive care, 20% (n=23) were ventilated. About 11% (n=68) of the patients were admitted in high care units in both private (88%, n=60) and public (12%, n=8) facilities.

 

UPDATE ON CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

Before you even ask, we wish to inform you that departments that are undertaking action on various matters and investigations have confirmed that the work is still ongoing. Matters are at various stages of either disciplinary actions or exercising consequence management.  Where cases needed to be opened, that work has been done and the criminal process is undertaking its own procedures.  Should there be new developments, you will be apprised.

 

NATIONAL HERITATE DAY:

Heritage Month in September and Heritage Day on 24 September 2020, in particular, is commemorated annually to celebrate our nation’s diverse culture and heritage.

It is an extremely important part of social cohesion, and weaving and strengthening the fabric that makes us who we are as a nation. For the very first time in our history, this year’s Heritage Day celebrations will take place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s theme for Heritage Month is “Celebrating South Africa’s living human treasures,” which is quite relevant when you consider the many giants and other important personalities that we have lost this year.

We therefore call upon all South Africans to respect, treasure and use all our living legends to harvest our history, so that we can have a better appreciation of this country’s long and painful past, in order to chart a positive and prosperous future. For us to realise our massive potential as a country, especially as we try to recover from the damage caused by COVID – 19, the question of social cohesion, nation-building and our shared national identity becomes very important.

EVER-LINGERING THREAT OF A SECOND WAVE OF COVID – 19 INFECTIONS

We wish to remind our fellow compatriots that Alert Level 1 is still part of the lockdown.   Regulations will be enforced.  The curfew must be observed and those selling alcohol must do so in line with the regulations.  We are noting the new tricks that some are using to sell during prohibited hours and days (Saturdays and Sundays).The law enforcement agencies are watching you.  Remember, when people drink they also speak!

As we conclude, we wish to really call on all our citizens not to be complacent by dropping their Covid-19 guard.  The possible Second Wave of COVID – 19 is not just empty talk, but constitutes a real threat. While the noticeable decline in the rate of new COVID – 19 infections and deaths is a welcome development, there is no shortage of examples where countries have experienced a second and more powerful wave of COVID – 19 infections, and deaths. 

This has taken place in countries like India, the US, Spain, Vietnam, New Zealand, Brazil and South Korea, to mention but a few. Some of those countries have been forced to re-introduce hard lockdowns, which caused even more devastation to their economies, which they were trying very hard to rebuild. We can ill-afford for something like that to happen here in our country. Therefore, when we say stopping COVID – 19 is in our hands, we really need to internalise and normalise that.

 We therefore all need to:

-         Wear a face mask

-         Wash our hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitiser; and

-         Maintaining social distancing of at least 1,5 metres between ourselves and other people.

We are extremely grateful to all citizens who have abided by these precautions. They are the reason we do not talk of a complete disaster today. We implore all others to do the same.

I thank you