NATIONAL NEWS - A grave warning about the seriousness of the Covid-19 situation that is awaiting the country after lockdown was aired on Thursday afternoon, 16 April, by the head of the Western Cape Health Department, Dr Keith Cloete.
"If there is any sense of complacency, I just want to tell people, this is a really, really big thing coming at us. We are taking this extremely seriously. We hope that… we can take the public in our trust to engage over the coming weeks about what exactly is coming at us and the seriousness of what we face."
Cloete spoke during an online update together with Premier Alan Winde and Dr Wayne Smith, head of disaster medicine at Emergency Medicine of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS).
Cloete said that in last week, community transmission has been established in hotspot areas and as a result, the province "is entering a new period" that has put the teams on high alert.
"We need to be as vigilant as we can."
Winde said that preparation, being done in all aspects to be as prepared as possible, is leaving the frontline staff fatigued already and lauded them for their dedication.
He also expressed "tremendous" worry about people still out on the streets. "You just have to look at what's happening in other countries in the world, and you say to yourself, if we're not going to follow the proper practices of hygiene, social distancing, wearing masks and staying at home, we're going to be in big trouble. It really worries me."
Challenges with screening
Responding to a question about community screening, Cloete said it has mostly been very successful, but the mugging of a team in one of the areas where screening was being carried out, was a source of serious concern. The incident took place on Wednesday 15 April.
The team had to terminate their activities and they have since been working under police escort in that area. He did not want to mention where it had taken place.
The other concern surrounding community screening was that the process causes the gathering of people.
"It becomes a potential place where spreading can take place. We have been working with each of the areas to ensure that social distancing and hygiene practices and wearing of masks are part of this activity. We are addressing this concern in the areas where we are screening."
Use of masks when shopping may become standard
Cloete said the standard use of masks when people go into supermarkets will be considered, among other guidelines being discussed with supermarkets. This follows after a few incidents where shops had to be closed and disinfected because of employees that had tested positive. He said it was realised that gathering in any place, like supermarkets, has become a source of spreading the virus.
"We've learned a lot from the three or four stores where we've been in terms of the process of having to close and clean and having to screen everybody for it to open again. We are meeting with all the supermarket chains… and we have a guideline of what we want to put in place."
Isolation process of positive cases
Dr Wayne Smith explained the process followed after someone is tested positive. Where patients can self-isolate, they are informed of what the process entails and are then monitored on a daily basis.
The large majority of the community does not have that luxury. In such instances, the accommodation of the positive person is inspected to see how many other people share the
space and where necessary the patient is taken from the community to an isolation site. Here, support for their clinical and social well-being is ensured. Reintegration into the community afterwards completes the process. Numerous different agencies, health professionals and non-governmental organisations are involved to ensure success and safety.
"Unfortunately there has also been a case where the patient's safety was compromised. That's why patient confidentiality is critical. We'll need to educate the community to make sure it (the illness) is not stigmatised," said Smith.
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