KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane has sounded alarm bells over ‘Covid–19 fatigue’, warning that in the face of rising new infections, citizens of the province can ill-afford to be complacent and not follow precautions.
As new Covid–19 cases soared beyond the 4000 mark yesterday, the MEC expressed her concern that many people now appear to be taking the pandemic for granted, to the point where they have stopped taking non-pharmaceutical measures, such as the wearing of masks, washing their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer, and practicing social distancing.
Speaking on her department’s innovative and popular weekly multimedia programme KZN Health Chat, Simelane said: “We know that, perhaps because we talk about Covid–19 on a daily basis, people may feel like they’re growing ‘tired’ of consuming this information. But the truth is that things are really getting bad. We’ve been saying in the past months that we were not in the third wave and it seemed as though when it would eventually come, we would not be hit that hard. But in the past two weeks or so, we’ve seen an exponential growth in the number of new daily infections, which is extremely concerning.”
In the latest 24-hour reporting period, the province has had 3 884 new cases, bringing to 450 781 the total number of confirmed cases.
A day earlier, the number of new infections stood at 4 198. The province currently has 50 477 active cases, and has sadly registered 13 032 fatalities. There have been 386 408 recoveries.
Simelane said: “Instead of the numbers going down, they’re rising. That is why we are pleading with the people of this province to adhere to non-pharmaceutical measures.”
Among other observations that have been noted, said the MEC, are that: “When Covid–19 was still new, everywhere you went, hand sanitizer was everywhere, and everyone was using it. But now, it appears that we’ve let our guard down. We really need to go back to that vigilance of old. When we have meetings, let us adhere to the stipulated regulations.”
She also urged the public to acknowledge the even more contagious and deadly nature of the new Covid–19 variant that is dominant in South Africa, and take the necessary precautions.
“Scientists have told us that the Delta virus that we are dealing with is a lot more infectious. That is manifesting in the high rate of infections among young people and at schools. We are seeing a lot of people dying because of Covid–19. It’s something that we all should be worried about.
“Let us not fool each other by pretending that Covid–19 doesn’t kill. It is here, and it is deadly. Let us look after ourselves, and follow all non-pharmaceutical measures, and not wait until we need to go to hospital. Look after yourself now; and minimise unnecessary movement and visits.”
Meanwhile, with ‘ama-2000’ (people born around the turn of the millennium) having started vaccinating on Friday, 20 August 2021, the MEC said she found vaccine enthusiasm among this cohort both encouraging and exciting.
More than 1,8 million people have now been vaccinated in KwaZulu-Natal since the programme started earlier this year, and – in a bid to grow numbers – the province is now diversifying its vaccination strategy by adding drive-through vaccination sites to minimise the congestion of people; as well as vaccinating people at churches, taxi ranks, and tribal courts, to mention but a few.
Referring to the vaccination of ‘ama-2000’, the MEC said: “The president announced that people aged 18 and above will start to register to get vaccinated at the beginning of September. But recently, the new Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has been receiving many calls from youth organisations and the public in general, asking why they need to wait until the 1st of September to register, because they’re ready as it is. He then had a number of consultations over the weekend, and it became clear that young people are ready to get vaccinated. That is why from Friday onwards, everyone has been getting vaccinated. As a province, we are 100% ready to vaccinate these young people. They are the future, and if you do not protect them, it is tantamount to not taking care of the future.
“They’re very excited. And we’re ready for them. We’ve explained in the past that we have more than 600 vaccination sites in the province. It is just that we haven’t opened all of them. But if these young people come out in numbers and we need to open all those sites, we will do so. We are ready. We have the personnel to operate them. And we even have the vaccine doses. We are also ready to vaccinate them in their own communities, as part of our community outreach. But we are urging them to register, so that there is order.” – KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health