Statement by the Premier of KZN, Hon. Mr Sihle Zikalala, on the occasion of a media briefing on the latest developments regarding COVID – 19, and other related matters, 06 June 2021
MEC for Health in KZN, Hon. MS Nomagugu Simelane,
Government officials present today,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for honouring our invitation to this media briefing. As the Government of KwaZulu-Natal, we can never grow tired of thanking you for always responding positively, whenever we invite you to come and participate in this session.
We say this because, when it comes to the battle against COVID – 19, the sharing of information – and changing our ways and behaving as we are told – is central to our very survival during these tough times.
National Youth Month
Today’s media briefing is taking place a week since His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the re-grading of the country to Risk Adjusted Alert Level 2. This is a responsible and proactive decision taken by a caring government to protect lives and mitigate against the impact of a third wave engulfing the country.
We already know that four of the nine provinces are already battling a third wave of infections, which should send a strong signal to all of us to behave responsibly, and observe all COVID – 19 prevention protocols.
But before we get to the purpose of today, which is to provide an update on COVID – 19, we must express our pleasure at the fact that KwaZulu-Natal has been chosen by National Government as the host Province for the commemoration of Youth Day, in Pietermaritzburg, on June 16, 2021.
This is a day of profound socio-political significance, as it reminds us of the long and painful journey that we have travelled as a country, and as a people.
It also gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we are, and where we need to go, in pursuit of true and complete emancipation - especially for the young people who are the future of our country.
We will therefore be pleased to welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa, who will deliver the keynote address during this commemoration, as well as his delegation.
As part of Youth Month, we are taking this opportunity to announce that as the Government of KwaZulu-Natal we are rolling out the second phase of the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Fund. For this purpose, we have set aside an amount to the tune of R50million.
This funding will assist many youth-run businesses in the province.
The Office of the Premier will soon announce details regarding where young people can send proposals to, for their businesses to be considered for funding. The 1st phase of this programme has already had a great impact in the number of successful youth-run business ventures that have been formed and ended up thriving through this seed funding.
We trust that this new funding will boost the prospects of young people and help them realise their aspirations of becoming entrepreneurs.
Latest New Investments: Early signs of KZN Economic Recovery
Ladies and Gentlemen, defeating COVID-19 remains our principal priority. This has been the single biggest obstacle to economic recovery. The recent Labour Quarterly Survey has highlighted the severity of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the economy, as reflected in the latest unemployment figures. Despite our constrained economic environment, we are encouraged by a number of recent investments in our province, which include the following
Nyanza Light Metals
The construction of the first phase of the Nyanza Light Metals titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment production plant commenced in March this year. The total investment value of this project is R4.5bn.
The construction of the R1.3 billion crude vegetable oil refining facility at the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ) commenced in October 2020. Currently, civil engineering works are underway at this site, with piling and earthworks nearing completion. Once completed, the facility is set to create 202 permanent jobs.
Pepkor Logistics Facility
This R1.5 billion facility based at the Keystone Business Park in Hammarsdale was launched on 11 May 2021 by ourselves. Construction of this facility is currently underway and once operational, the facility will create 2200 jobs.
Defy Warehousing and Distribution Centre
On 19 May 2021, Defy South Africa officially opened a R170 million warehousing and distribution Centre at Danskraal in Ladysmith. The facility has the capability of loading/unloading in excess of 200 trucks per day, and a storage capacity of 100,000 cubic metres. It will create 130 new jobs.
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) (Call Centres):
The growth of the business processing sector has been phenomenal. Almost 15,000 jobs have already been created, with the potential for a further 55,000 in the medium term.
Durban Port Expansion
The R100 billion investment over the medium term into the expansion of the Durban port will not only reduce congestion and increase capacity of the port, but it will also lead to job creation and a massive injection into the economy of the province.
Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with Afrexim Bank
On the 27th of May 2021, the KwaZulu-Natal government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the African Export-Import (Afrexim) Bank. The Pan African development financier which is headquartered in Cairo, Egypt is already funding some multi-million rand developments within the country, including the construction of the Nyanza Light Metals plant at the RIBDZ.
This MoU will herald a new era of investments in KwaZulu-Natal, which is highlighted, to a large extent, by the R20 billion worth of projects which have been presented for consideration for funding by the bank.
All of these developments are warmly welcome, and extremely encouraging. They are like a bandage that will heal and soothe the wounds of unemployment and loss of livelihoods that have been resulted from COVID – 19.
Richards Bay Minerals Instability and Recent Case of Arson
We want to condemn the recent incidents of killings and arson at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM). As Government, we are committed to working with all stakeholders to bring stability in this important economic belt of our province.
We have full confidence in the capacity of our law enforcement agencies to bring to justice all those ring-leaders behind the economic sabotage that is taking place in and around RBM.
On Thursday this week, Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, together with a delegation from the KZN Government, visited the area to assess the situation.
We continue to send a message to all community members to play their role in safeguarding their investment and livelihoods brought through RBM.
If RBM collapses, it is people’s livelihoods that will be severely affected. Let’s expose the criminal elements involved, and rise up against all those who are destabilising our economy, especially at such a critical time.
Update on vaccinations
Although there is always room for improvement, we must say that we are quite pleased with how the rate of vaccination has been proceeding in the province.
From our 124 vaccination sites so far created in the public sector, and 18 in the private sector, we have managed to vaccinate a total of 360 451 people in the Province. This is made up of 237 195 senior citizens aged 60 and above, and 123 256 health workers.
Vaccination of educators
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health will be opening a further 21 new vaccination sites this week, to accommodate educators, who will be getting vaccinated from the 9th of June, which is Wednesday. We will be receiving 110400 J&J vaccines for this category. We already have a database for these educators, which should make their vaccination easier.
These educators will be guided by management in their respective districts and circuits, regarding which sites to go to, in order to get vaccinated.
Some districts will open new sites, where sites don’t already exist; while others will have to designate their existing sites accordingly, to accommodate the teachers. We’re also exploring the possibility of opening these vaccination sites on weekends, because educators work Monday to Friday.
Concerning observations in Schools
We are also concerning by a few schools which have reported high numbers of infections within a space of few days. For example, on Friday, 4th June 2021 one school under Umzinyathi District reported 16 positive cases of learners. Another school under Uthukela District reported 15 positive cases of learners. The Department of Education will continue to implement COVID-19 protocols and to provide necessary PPE, and other forms of support.
- COVID – 19 status quo
The latest information we have gathered over the last 24 hours is that KZN has recorded 227 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed COVID -19 cases to 340 586. Sadly, we have lost 10 534 people as a province.
The province of KwaZulu-Natal Province continues to observe an increase in the number of new cases recorded weekly, which is concerning.
The overall percentage change in the number of new cases between week 21 & 22 was 24%. The actual number of new cases were 726 for week 21; and 900 for week 22 respectively.
Amajuba District is the only District that has reached alert line and cases have been slightly increasing in the 3 previous week. EThekwini has also been receiving the highest number of cases, although it has not reached the alert line.
EThekwini continues to contribute the highest percentage of deaths, at 36% (n=3 843). Of the total deaths, 212 (2%) occurred at home.
The median age for the deaths was 63 years.
More than half of the deceased were female (54%). And, of the total deaths, 7 290 (69%) had comorbidities.
Recoveries stand at 325 295 and active cases are at 4 163.
Third wave: What will trigger our emergency warnings
Many people have been asking whether the Province of KwaZulu-Natal is in the third wave yet? The answer is, at this stage, no!
In terms of our emergency early warning systems, a 10% increase in cases over a 7 day moving average will trigger an alert; while a 20% increase in cases over a 7 day moving average will trigger resurgence, which may indicate that we are entering a third wave of COVID – 19 infections.
So, we continue to monitor trends and signals of a resurgence in the Province. Our focus is on identifying clusters and conducting targeted testing in the affected areas; identifying and strengthening contact tracing; intensifying our risk communication drive, with an emphasis on non-pharmaceutical interventions.
Our strategy to deal with the potential third wave stands on the following pillars:
- Testing all COVID – 19 suspected cases and their contacts
- Isolation of confirmed cases
- Monitoring of those who are self-isolating
- Tracing all contacts of the confirmed cases
- Dedicating beds for quarantine (PUIs), isolation and ICU; and
- Ensuring oxygen availability
- Accelerating vaccinations
Our main focus now is to accelerate vaccination and stay highly prepared, should a third wave hit us. We are calling on techno savvy citizens to assist with the registration of our elderly and the rural poor. We have directed that all MEC Champions, Mayors and Operation Sukuma Sakhe War Rooms dedicate a week in their respective districts and wards to monitor and facilitate registration for vaccinations.
Each one must register one!
Even though our Province has not entered the third wave of COVID – 19, we should nevertheless remain vigilant and acutely aware of the potential risk of a resurgence of infections.
We cannot over-emphasise this: it is crucial for us to adhere to the non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as wearing of masks; maintaining social distancing; and washing our hands regularly with soap and water.
Our memories are still fresh and we have barely recovered from the tragic episodes of the first and the second waves. It is now proven that individual behaviours such as getting into large gatherings, and crowded spaces spreads the virus faster, and among many people.
We urge all citizens to adhere to the Level 2 regulations, which are intended to keep us out of the third wave. Let us continue to limit our movements.
The vaccine is safe and there are plans to register walk inns at vaccination sites. If your turn has come and you have been notified, please go and get the vaccination, because this is our only hope to stop the spread of the virus and save lives.
It is up to you and I to ensure that the relatively low numbers that we are seeing are not the calm before the storm. Let us save the day by doing what is right.