GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - Knysna and Plettenberg Bay residents have raised concerns over a possible increase in Covid-19 cases as a result of the recent "grace period" for interprovincial travel.
And it seems that their concerns are not unfounded as the Eastern Cape health department has already indicated that, so far, 137 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 had entered the province from the Western Cape during the period 1 to 7 May.
Efforts to obtain similar statistics from the Western Cape health department as well as the office of the premier about how many positive cases from other provinces entered the Western Cape – and more specifically the Garden Route – were not successful.
Despite several enquiries, it is also not clear if the provincial government put in place a strategy to mitigate the impact of the interprovincial travellers.
The grace period applied to all those who had been stuck in a different province during the lockdown and wanted to return to their original residence as well as those needing to travel for work in various permitted sectors as well as "essential services". This includes the construction and related sectors.
Concerns over possible rise in infections
A snap survey by Knysna-Plett Herald revealed that the majority of residents was concerned about the government's move to allow interprovincial travel as they felt that without proper monitoring it could lead to a rise in infections in areas like Plett and Knysna where infections have been low so far.
Knysna resident Charlene Harte, who has a national diploma in environmental health, raised concerns with the Western Cape government, and said the Level 5 lockdown and its two-week long extension left many people stuck in homes, districts and provinces that were not their own. "And now that certain people were permitted to return to work, or to their original places of residence, the virus will in all likelihood once again spread to hitherto unaffected or slightly contaminated areas."
She added it would have been prudent to subject all travellers moving from one district to the next, or crossing provincial borders, to be tested at border posts and monitored thereafter as this would have reduced the risk of spreading the virus.
Harte believes a mandatory two-week self-isolation period of all interprovincial crossings should have been the protocol to follow. "We controlled and regulated all international travel at Level 5 and South Africans returning from other high-risk countries were also asked to self-isolate."
'Did government think this through?'
Similarly Plett resident Dave Swart said the lockdown was set in place to be able to prepare medically for the onslaught of infected people who would need hospitalisation. He wanted to know if government had really given thought to the interest of South Africans when they allowed interprovincial travel.
"This is my major concern for the Plett/Knysna/George section of the Garden Route. Consider this: These three towns have had no infections in recent weeks and all their infected people have recovered. In Plett the last recovery was over two weeks ago. Given this and the incubation period of the virus, it is pretty safe to say that there are no infections in this area. Now government has decreed that there can be a once-off movement across provincial borders. This then means that areas outside of the Garden Route which have more infections than this area will have people travelling into this sector of the Garden Route – especially into Plett from the Eastern Cape which has a dubious infection rate," Swart said.
He added that likewise, even travelling within a province brings potential problems. "Anyone travelling from Cape Town into this area brings risk of infections. So, what I am in essence saying, is that no proper thought has been given to reinfecting areas where there are currently no infections at all.
"We are all being put at risk again by the current crazy regulations for Level 4," he said.
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