DA in the Free State submits PAIA application to compel release of detailed Covid-19 provincial data

Issued by Mariette Pittaway MPL – DA Whip of the Official Opposition in the Free State Legislature
04 May 2020 in Press Statements

Since the start of the lockdown, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Free State has advocated for more detailed Covid-19 statistics to be made public on a daily basis. This as members of opposition parties on this portfolio were purposefully being side-lined in the Social Services portfolio, and found that information was being disseminated in a very selective manner.

Despite the portfolio committee having agreed to the DA’s proposal that statistics should include tests done per district, positive cases per district, deaths per district, recoveries per district, hospitalisation per district and screenings per district, to date, none of this information has been forthcoming.

The DA has rigorously questioned the statistics presented in portfolio committees, as they appeared ambiguous and not to be the true reflection of matters on the ground. Amongst the most prevalent of issues raised by the DA related to the actual number of Covid-19 tests that the Department of Health in the Free State reports to have been conducted to date:

The statistics on the document reflects that 5761 Covid-19 tests have been done in the Free State. In a reply to the DA’s question on “whether these tests were all done by the public sector”, the Department had indicated that both the public and private sector have conducted tests in the Free State.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), as well as a media statement by the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkize, on 24 April 2020, only approximately 39% of Covid-19 tests are done by the public sector. Numbers of testing in the public sector are increasing, unfortunately we do not see it in the Free State.

The true reflection then should be that only 2247 of the Covid-19 tests in the Free State have been done by the provinces Department of Health which accounts for a meagre 0.08% of the Free State’s population.

We know that testing is an important facet of understanding the nature and spread of the coronavirus. It is therefore critical that the Free State Department of Health ramps up testing throughout the province, to avoid a complete collapse of our healthcare system, and avoid further devastation to our people.

Furthermore, it remains obscene that the MEC of Health, Montseng Tsiu, does not want to share daily Covid-19 statistics with the public. Could it be that she is hiding something which may reveal the true extent of the Covid-19 situation in our province?

The DA in the Free State, through the stewardship of Dr Roy Jankielsohn, the Leader of the Official Opposition in the Legislature, have written to the Premier of the Free State, requesting clarity on these Covid-19 statistics. If the current statistics are a benchmark of the true position we find ourselves in, then the lockdown regulations ought to be relaxed in the Free State.

We have since submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to the Free State Department of Health, compelling them to release daily, detailed Covid-19 statistics.