NATIONAL NEWS - While the province over the past weeks has shown a downward trend in Covid-19 infections, the provincial command council said they would not encourage immediate easing of lockdown levels.
Meanwhile, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was yet again tasked to probe into allegations of corruption including reports of the “fingering” of premier David Makhura (or his office).
On Friday, the Gauteng Command Council delivered several reports from the state of Covid-19 infections, the vaccine roll-out plans and corruption allegations.
Chair of premier’s Covid-19 advisory council Dr Mary Kawong, said although the province had experienced a reduction in Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks, cases were still relatively high.
“From 12 January, cases started declining, but cases still mount to a 1 000 daily.”
Kawong said the enforcement of adjusted level 3 in late December, was one of the reasons behind the downward trajectory in the province.
Although there was also a decrease in several Covid-19 related deaths this past week, Kawong said there were probably more people that died because of Covid-19 but never tested. She said this was because during high infections a lot of people were reported to have died of natural causes.
“There were 20 764 natural excess deaths since 3 May 2020, Gauteng accounted for 16.5% of all natural excess deaths. In the week of 17-23 January, natural excess deaths were at 1 854. This was a reduction from 2 018 detailed a week before,” she said.
“There might have been people who died of Covid-19 but did not get any care because hospitals were clogged up. They are either Covid-19 deaths or happened as a consequence of Covid-19 pandemic.”
Kawong said they would not advise easing of regulations yet, due to cases and deaths still relatively high.
“As much as this is good news, the second wave is not over yet. Because of a high number in excess deaths, which we will monitor. We all need to continue to be cautious.”
She urged the public that as the vaccine would be rolled out people needed to continue wearing masks.
Advisory council member Professor Bruce Mellado said several hotspots have stabilised to 300 cases.
“The severity of the hotspots has also declined, it is a clear sign that the second wave is on a decline.”
Premier Makhura said he was not yet keen on the easing of the lockdown levels due to still high number of hospital admissions.
“As it is now, if we were to lift the alcohol ban the 5 338 patients at our hospitals number will increase and go above 7 000. This thing happens very quickly. It is not like someone has a passionate hate for the sector, we use the evidence and science,” he said.
Makhura said the lifting of the alcohol ban would see a rise in trauma cases and put pressure on the hospitals.
“In this phase where we are now, I can assure you that it will be a very risky thing to do (lift ban).
“Look at what happened in December, we had the Mabopane highway blocked by young people who were on a drinking spree and that saw Tshwane having high cases.”
He slammed the allegations that he had been “fingered” by former chief financial officer Kabelo Lehloenya that his office gave her the names of the companies to appoint to supply and deliver PPE in the province.
“In the affidavit, she said she got some of the names from the office of the premier and not the premier. The presiding judge in the case referred that she received names from the premier, which was incorrect. We have since written to the judge to rectify what was written in the judgment.
“My name has been brought into disrepute and I want that to be corrected. They (DA) are citing an affidavit that they have not read and it is sad,” he said.
“I am clear in my mind. There is no incident where I have sought to enrich my friends or family. I wrote a letter, the truth, there have been incidents of corruption that breaks my heart in the light of Covid-19.”
Makhura said the SIU started the investigations into the allegations and should he be implicated he would step down.
Secondly, he has also asked the SIU to investigate allegations of wasteful expenditure by the Department of Education following reports that the department spent R431-million in about three months (between June and August 2020), for “deep cleansing and decontamination” at schools and the department’s offices.
On the Covid-19 vaccine plan, acting health head Lesiba Malotana said that there were more than 600 sites registered to vaccinate people in the province.
“We expect the vaccine to be rolled out in the next 14 days or so once the national department finalises arrangements.
“Every vial of vaccine must be accounted for, there are processes that will ensure no one double dips.
“If the vaccine gets here, we will be able to administer it. Once the health care workers are vaccinated we will be looking at the essential workers and people over 60 years, which will be the biggest stage,” he said.
Despite government facilities, he said they were looking into getting the pharmacies already at the community level to also be able to roll out the vaccine.
“We aim to have 60% of the population vaccinated which is about 10. 2 million people in Gauteng. The sooner we can get that the better.”
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