Hon. MEC for Health in KZN, Ms Nomagugu Simelane,
Government officials present today,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for honouring our invitation to this media briefing. Your presence here today once again gives us an important opportunity to keep our fellow compatriots updated regarding developments pertaining to the COVID – 19 pandemic. As we all know, this is one pandemic that has changed our lives in a most profound way.
Before we get to the business of the day, there have been a number of interesting developments in the past week that we would like to comment about.
Welcoming the announcement of the Local Government Elections date
As the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, we welcome the announcement by President Ramaphosa that this year’s Local Government elections will be held on 27 October 2021. This has put an end to much speculation and widespread concerns over whether the elections were going to take place at all, given the massive disruption caused by COVID – 19.
These Local Government Elections will also mark the 21st Anniversary since the establishment of a local government system in our country.
The upcoming local elections are important as they represent the maturity of democracy. As a Province, we will use the upcoming period to reflect on the journey and progress made in improving the landscape of where our people live.
We will identify areas where corrections are required and use the accelerated District Development Model to address our citizens’ concerns.
It is extremely important that as many eligible citizens as possible participate in this all-important process.
Freedom Day celebrations
In the same breath, we are looking forward to commemorating the 27th anniversary of the country’s first democratic elections in two days’ time. In this regard, we will be hosting our own provincial Freedom Day celebrations, at Ohlange Institute, on Tuesday, 27 April 2021.
This year we will be remembering Mme Charlotte Maxeke and Dr John Langalibalele Dube, both of whom would have turned 150 years this year. This is a generation that planted the seeds that have germinated into the freedom that we enjoy today.
Although some challenges still do exist, we certainly have a lot to celebrate and not take for granted as a nation - particularly our socio-political freedom, which was achieved through the sweat and blood of many heroes and heroines of the people of South Africa.
The official gathering to celebrate Freedom Day will be held in strict adherence to COVID – 19 regulations.
KZN update on COVID – 19 status quo:
The Province of KwaZulu-Natal continues to rank the second-highest in terms of the number of laboratory-confirmed cases countrywide, contributing 21% (n=336 228) cases.
The average number of cases recorded in the past seven days declined to below 100 cases per day.
The province continues to rank the fourth highest in terms of fatalities countrywide, following Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Western Cape.
We have continued to observe a decline in the number of new cases recorded weekly. The overall percentage change in number of new cases between week 15 & 16 was a decline of 8%. The actual number of new cases was 606 for week 15; and 555 for week 16 respectively.
The overall provincial incidence risk remained at 5 cases/100 000 population.
However, King Cetshwayo, Harry Gwala and UThukela Districts observed an increase the in the number of new cases.
In fact, King Cetshwayo and Harry Gwala Districts observed a percentage change of more than 50% in the past week, which is cause for concern.
The number of hospital admissions has continued to decline, in keeping with a reduction in the number of new cases.
The Province currently has 444 COVID-19 patients admitted in hospitals, with a recovery rate of 96%.
Accelerating the vaccination programme
The Sisonke Johnson and Johnson study, also known as Phase 1(a), will resume soon, and is expected end on the 30th of April 2021.
Phase 1(b) will commence on the 1st of May 2021 and end on the 16th of May 2021.
Since Phase 1(a) of the vaccination process began on the 18th of February 2021, and until its voluntary suspension on the 12th of April 2021, the province of KwaZulu-Natal had vaccinated a total of 51 615 health workers at 91 sites throughout the province.
This was made up of 37 457 health workers from the public sector, and the remaining 14 158 from the private sector.
As part of Phase 1(b), if the adequate number of vaccines is received, to vaccinate the remaining 81 232 public Health Care Workers over 7 days, we could meet a provincial daily target of 11 605 workers.
Vaccination for Phase 1(b) and Phase 2 will run simultaneously. For instance, we will be vaccinating essential workers aged 40 years and above, at the same time as we vaccinate people in congregant settings, and those with co-morbidities, who are aged 18 years and above.
An incremental approach will be used when dealing with Phases 2 and 3, with the number of vaccination sites getting increased as the programme is scaled up;
The KZN Department of Health has already identified Mass Vaccination Centres, such as:
- The Royal Showgrounds for Umgungundlovu District;
- For EThekwini we have so far identified Pinetown Civic Centre, King Zwelithini Sports grounds and Cato Manor Sports grounds for the south central region;
Hospitals and CHCs will act as primary vaccination centres; while clinics and other community structures will be secondary vaccination centres.
The community structures that will be utilised as vaccination centres have been mapped per district; and all information in this regard will be made available.
With a provincial daily target of 30 000 vaccinations (5 days per week), the Phase II Vaccination could be completed by September 2021. This will create an opportunity for us to commence Phase 3 earlier, in October 2021.
How phase 2 of the vaccination process will unfold:
Phase 2 of the vaccination process will then start on the 17th of May 2021, and will cover:
- Essential workers;
- People who work in settings where they interact with a high number of members of the public;
- Those who are over 60 years of age; as well as;
- Those who are over 18 years of age, with co-morbidities.
Our target for Phase 2 is to vaccinate at least 2,9 million people by October 2021, with Phase 3 expected to begin in November 2021.
We have an army of 7 616 people who are trained to carry out these vaccinations, and we are confident that, with the requisite support and co-operation from the public, we can indeed achieve these targets.
The importance of registering for vaccination
The success of our vaccination plan, which will help us achieve enough population immunity to be able to halt the spread of the virus, depends critically on as many people as possible getting registered on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS).
We understand the dynamics of our province and that many in the 60 and above age group will require hands-on support in registering.
We are urging relatives, children, and friends of the elderly who have familiarity with technology systems to assist the grand mothers and fathers, ogogo nomkhulu, to register.
As the Province of KwaZulu-Natal we are directing that the coming weekend be the weekend of heightened registration for vaccination.
To this end, we will visit various districts where we are champions to monitor and assist in registering our elderly.
The self-registration system for people above 60 years is now live since the 16th of April 2021.
Those that cannot self-register will need to be supported. The Department will utilise all municipality offices.
Mobile clinics, School Health Teams, community health workers, Community Development Workers, Agricultural Extension Officers, Environmental Health Practitioners, Traditional Council Secretaries, and other categories of workers will assist in registering community members as part of support to the Vaccination Programme at district and local level.
Training material on EVDS including a tutorial video has already been circulated to districts; and staff training commenced 19 April 2021.
Concerns about complacency
We have noted with a great sense of worry various forms of behaviour that indicate a high level of complacency when it comes to adherence to COVID – 19 safety precautions.
Far too many people seem to have lowered their guard. They’re no longer wearing their masks in public and many are carrying them for compliance; there’s no social distancing - let alone regular hand sanitizing or washing of hands with water and soap.
People are gathering in large groups, especially at restaurants, pubs, night clubs and taverns. Some shops are even allowing more people than required; while others seemingly don’t bother to have hand sanitizer at the door.
The curfew times are also no longer being respected in some instances.
We seem to be sliding back to the kind of complacency that consumed us towards the end of last year, just before the second waved came and ambushed us.
We want to plead with our citizens to remember that: once beaten, twice shy. As it happened with the second wave; the third wave will not announce itself. Yes, the numbers may be low at the moment, but COVID – 19 is still killing people.
As of today, the Province has recorded 10 369 deaths since Covid-19 started, we remain concerned that our Province continues to rank the fourth-highest in terms of fatalities countrywide.
The Department of Health is monitoring resurgence indicators which will alert the province to respond accordingly if there are spikes or signs of a resurgence of COVID-19 in the Province.
If we are to avoid the calamity that we saw in December and January, we must start today, and behave as though the third wave is already here.
It’s not enough to think that because you “know” and “trust” someone, then they are not infectious. It just doesn’t work like that.
Many countries are already under siege from COVID – 19 resurgence
As we speak, the sub-continent of India is in deep trouble due to a resurgence of COVID – 19.
We are seeing in other countries people are scrambling for life-saving oxygen supplies, beds and medicinal drugs. Patients are dying outside hospitals. On Friday, we observed in India that the country's overnight infection total was higher than ever recorded anywhere in the world since the pandemic began last year, at 332,730.
In Japan, the central government has declared a third state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with new restrictions imposed in Tokyo, Osaka, and other places, due to a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases.
We pray for our fellow brothers and sister in these countries but also for our fellow citizens battling COVID-19.
If we continue carrying on as if its business as usual, then we might have soon deeply regret it when the third wave comes.
We will be conducting surprise visits, and checking level of compliance. We will not hesitate to revoke trading licenses and take legal action where transgressions are found.
Conclusion/update on efforts to repatriate the body of the late Linda Myeni
As we conclude, we would like to update you on progress regarding efforts to return the body of the late Linda Myeni. Earlier this week, we sent a delegation led by the Director-General of KZN, Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize, to the Empangeni home of Linda Myeni, the South African-born former rugby player who was gunned down by police under questionable circumstances in Honolulu, in the island state of Hawaii, in the United States of America.
As a Province, we are saddened that one of our own countrymen has been caught up in the ongoing spate of attacks by law enforcement authorities, which are apparently targeted at Black people in the United States.
This objectionable behaviour should be condemned. Investigations must be thoroughly conducted and no stone must be left unturned. Justice must be served in this case!
As the Provincial Government, we are in regular contact with the Myeni family; the Department of International Relations and Co-operation; as well as the Consul-General in the US, regarding developments in the case; as well as plans to ultimately have Myeni’s mortal remains repatriated to his home country.
On Friday, 23rd of April 2021, the Consul-General in Miami who is responsible for OHIO State indicated that the American Government has released the mortal remains of Mr Myeni to his wife and they are being stored at a local funeral parlour.
On Saturday, 24th of April 2021, the Office of the Premier had another meeting with the family at Richards Bay to discuss progress as well as the way forward.
The family reported the following:
- The body of Mr Myeni will depart US on Tuesday, 27th April 2021
- It will arrive in South Africa, OR Tambo International Airport, on Friday, 30th April 2021.
More details including confirmed funeral dates and memorial services will be communicated by the family, supported by the provincial government in due course.
We wish to once again appreciate the support that the Department of International Relations through the Consul-General is giving to the Myeni family and to us as government.
I thank you.