Trust at issue over Covid-19 numbers

The speculation over the veracity of Eastern Cape Covid-19 figures continued to rise, especially as the province’s first two deaths were still not registered on the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) website a week after they were announced by health MEC Sindiswa Gomba.
The speculation over the veracity of Eastern Cape Covid-19 figures continued to rise, especially as the province’s first two deaths were still not registered on the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) website a week after they were announced by health MEC Sindiswa Gomba.
Image: Jozef Polc/123rf.com

For at least a week after the government announced SA’s first positive case of Covid-19, the Eastern Cape was in the clear. Even as the numbers started to climb in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape’s numbers remained relatively low. 

There was a collective sigh of relief and a feeling that the provincial government had everything under control — they were saying all the right things, announcing mass screening and testing; they were being proactive, it seemed.

Fast forward two weeks and the cracks began to show. Suddenly, transparency and access to information was not as readily available. 

Mass screening and testing was delayed by a few days.

And a family in Zwide that had attended a funeral in KwaDwesi on March 21, believed to have accounted for a number of the positive cases in the Bay, were desperately trying to get tested for the virus.

Even a report on the front page of this newspaper did not spur health officials into action.

It was only after the intervention of a doctor based in the UK, who made contact with former colleagues in the health profession in Port Elizabeth, that the Zwide family was finally tested — three weeks after the funeral.

The speculation over the veracity of Eastern Cape Covid-19 figures continued to rise, especially as the province’s first two deaths were still not registered on the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) website a week after they were announced by health MEC Sindiswa Gomba.

Provincial health boss Dr Thobile Mbengashe explained, in an interview with this newspaper, that the deaths had to undergo a verification process to ensure the cause of death was indeed due to Covid-19.

He said there were a few other deaths in the province that were being investigated to ascertain if they were as a result of the virus.

What is clear is that the number of infections in the province is growing at an alarming rate — the citizenry is panicking.

The rising numbers inside correctional facilities, especially in East London, needs firm leadership that acts quickly to contain what is a ticking time bomb.

In a largely poor province such as ours, with many infrastructural challenges and a history of substandard governance, it would take a lot for the provincial government to gain the trust of the public.

We need a government that is firm, transparent, proactive and that evokes trust.

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