Questions over Eastern Cape virus cases

MONITORING PROCESS: Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, back left, and health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, standing next to him, look on as Dr Jaco Horak takes a sample from a volunteer to test for Covid-19 at a mobile testing station at the Walmer Town Hall this week
MONITORING PROCESS: Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, back left, and health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, standing next to him, look on as Dr Jaco Horak takes a sample from a volunteer to test for Covid-19 at a mobile testing station at the Walmer Town Hall this week
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

“The calm before a heavy and devastating storm.”

That is how health minister Zweli Mkhize this week described the lull in the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in SA.

His stern, somewhat ominous, warning came in the middle of the nationwide 21-day lockdown as he announced that the confirmed cases had by then — in the four weeks since the first positive result — already risen to 1,380 cases, and was steadily climbing, having reached 1,505 by the time of going to print.

Mkhize and health MECs in other provinces have been frank about the statistics.

In a live update about the figures on Thursday night, for instance, Free State health MEC Montseng Margaret TsIu pointed out, with disappointment, that they had already confirmed 77 cases in Bloemfontein alone.

How is it then, that in the Eastern Cape, one of the most densely populated provinces, only 17 cases have been recorded?

There have been questions about the number of tests conducted in the province and if it is enough.

That officials have done their part to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the province is wishful thinking — and we do really hope that is the case and that we have managed to “flatten the curve” here.

It is, however, encouraging that Premier Oscar Mabuyane launched mass testing in the province, which will kick off from Monday - it is the only way to have an accurate reflection of the reach of the virus in the Eastern Cape.

It is important that the officials and politicians not withhold crucial information -  including where in the province, breaking down in particular suburbs, these cases have occurred — that could play a huge part in stemming the spread of Covid-19.

If people are made aware, they are likely to avoid those areas and, as a result, prevent further infections.

Another reason it is so crucial that officials share as much as they possibly can is that the lack of information is often what feeds misinformation, even disinformation, giving rise to fake news.

If we are to ensure the safety of our residents — and combat fake news — then it is the duty and responsibility of officials to make available the necessary information.

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