Coronavirus – knowledge is the key to prevention

Issued by Mariette Pittaway – DA MPL and Whip of the Official Opposition in the Free State Legislature
15 Mar 2020 in Press Statements

The MEC for the Free State Department of Health, Ms Montseng Tsiu, has yet to supply the people of the Free State province with details regarding the Coronavirus.

This omission on her part caused serious panic this week as the national Department of Health indicated that the first community based case of the pandemic had been identified in the Free State and then later rescinded this. This led to large scale speculation over where the case is, and whether it was cause for mass concern in communities.

As a member of the Health Portfolio in the Free State Legislature I have to date received no communication from MEC Tsiu or the Department on updates, the Province’s preparedness or other actions relating to this pandemic.

I receive my information on the Coronavirus on a daily basis from the very competent Minister of Health in the DA-governed Western Cape, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo. Dr Mbombo visits clinics in the Western Cape, talking and informing staff and patients on the current situations. The Western Cape Department of Health is also distributing pamphlets with the most important information that the community needs to know about the Coronavirus, without creating panic.

Dr Mbombo, together with the Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, and the Minister of Education, Debbie Schäfer, are doing outreach to schools and families to practice the preventative measures publicised by the Western Cape Department of Health, especially regular hand-washing, sneezing into your elbow or a tissue, and not shaking hands, and through a fun exercise, teach the scholars the Safety Shake and Duck ‘n Dab.

After my initial oversight to Pelonomi Hospital on preparedness of the Isolation Ward, I have now established that they do have the necessary “personal protective equipment” (PPE). It is also established that the Isolation Ward at the Pelonomi Hospital can accommodate 39 patients.

The World Health Organisation has declared the Coronavirus outbreak as a world pandemic. South Africa has 38 confirmed cases (as at the release of this statement) with new cases being identified daily. As yet, no cases have been reported in the Free State.

The Coronavirus infections are most common in autumn and winter. As South Africa is now on the turning of the season, entering autumn, it is crucial for the Free State Department of Health to identify and prepare more health institutions in the Free State to be able to treat and isolate Covid-19 patients.

It is also important for the Free State Department of Health, together with the Department of Education, to launch a campaign to educate residents and learners at schools about the Coronavirus that includes prevention measures, containment, reporting and information on mitigation measures in place by the provincial Department. So far, most information regarding preventative and mitigation measures in the Free State have been distributed privately.

Our people of the Free State require daily, or more updates, from the provincial Department regarding this issue and should not only have to rely on national government for often unreliable information on Coronavirus in the province.

The DA will monitor the spread of the Coronavirus in the Free State and ensure that our people receive updated information and will hold the provincial government accountable for its handling of this pandemic. Knowledge remains the key empowerment tool that will placate people and prevent panic.