KNYSNA NEWS - Social distancing - or rather the lack thereof - is currently a hot topic in Knysna as the number of positive Covid-19 cases continues to grow locally.
Knysna saw its first Covid-19 cases on 18 March when former Knysna ward councillor Peter Myers announced he and his wife had contracted the coronavirus (they have since fully recovered). A month-and-a-half later, by 8 May, infections had risen to 17, which marked the day after the one-week interprovincial travel grace period had concluded.
This was, however, just the start of Knysna's boom in case numbers.
In the two months that followed, Knysna experienced an increase of 1 641,1% in accumulative Covid-19 cases, with the total figure standing at 296 on Tuesday, with 128 recoveries, 9 deaths, and 159 active cases. In these circumstances, one would have hoped that residents would exercise more caution and practise proper social distancing. But it would appear as if the opposite is true - something that chief inspector for the Western Cape Department of Employment and Labour, David Esau, picked up during his inspectorate's visit to Knysna two weeks ago. "There's an incredible lack of social distancing in town, and it is very concerning. One can easily see why Knysna's cases have risen. At this rate I think the town should be moved back to Level 5 lockdown," Esau said.
His sentiments were echoed by community leader Ralph Stander, chair of community organisation Knysna United. "The lack of social distancing is a big problem. It's not happening anywhere, be it government institutions or shops or just in our communities," he said. "People don't realise that Covid-19 is a killer and Knysna is a hotspot. Maybe people will start to realise it when we are put back on Level 5 lockdown."
The newly inducted president of Knysna Rotary Club, Andrew Finn, is also particularly concerned. "This is exactly the thing that has led to me doing every bit of my business online, from home. The lack of social distancing everywhere in town is appalling," he said. "People seem to be blind to the issue at hand, and the town needs to wake up soon."
When Knysna-Plett Herald visited the town this week, a widespread lack of social distancing was evident, including at the taxi rank, Knysna Mall and Gray Street, all the way up to White Location.
Sadly for those crying out for better law enforcement of social distancing, it is not deemed a criminal offence if not followed, according to Western Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa. "The non-wearing of a mask and social distancing is not regarded as a criminal offence under the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002, but the SAPS management in the Western Cape has continued to closely monitor compliance," Potelwa said.
She explained that there has been a total of 1 142 arrests in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay for transgressions of the Disaster Management Act up until the end of June. "The biggest margin of arrests and fines that were issued during this period relates to the failure of people to confine themselves to their own residences." Potelwa did however point out that "a reduction in all crime-related categories was observed during Level 3 in terms of the same period during June 2019, except contact-related crime where a slight increase was observed".
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