ANDISA BONANI and ZINTLE BOBELO
The Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) is taking active steps to ensure areas that experience regular water outages have access to the resource so they are also able to wash their hands on a regular basis in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
CHDM mayor Wongama Gela, speaking at a press briefing to address residents of the Chris Hani area about what the municipality is doing, advised everyone to adhere to cleanliness measures, including washing their hands on a regular basis.
Gela said: “The municipality is in the process of strengthening capacity on operations and maintenance of water issues by acquiring experienced service providers to be used as and when needed. Water will be provided to areas that experience interruptions due to system failure or infrastructure backlogs. There will be replacement of old infrastructure through ongoing operations and maintenance.”
To intensify other means to curb the virus, the mayor said they took proactive steps and established an outbreak response team and a joint operations centre.
This team, which will meet weekly or when necessary, includes the department of health, home affairs, immigration services, taxi associations, funeral parlours, traditional leaders, the council of churches, the business forum and the moral regeneration movement.
The mayor said they would liaise with all local municipalities in Chris Hani to take precautionary measures and interact with communities about coronavirus.
“We have cancelled all gatherings that would require masses to attend, including integrated development planning meetings, public participation meetings, international and national trips and we urge people to limit travelling.”
The municipality is in the process of procuring material to curb the spread of the virus, to be distributed when needed.
Gela urged residents to stop spreading fake news about coronavirus infections locally, because there had not been any confirmed cases in the province. He urged people who suspected they were infected to use the coronavirus hotline or the whatsapp number.
A statement issued by Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the local authority would swiftly put in place safety measures for employees and customers.
“Awareness workshops are already underway to equip all employees with factual information on coronavirus. These sessions will be concluded on March 19 after all staff members have been educated on it. The procurement of sanitisers, sterilisers, soaps and other safety material has been commissioned and should be available by next week. This pandemic has compelled the council to cancel or postpone activities, some of which are mandated by legislation.”
The statement indicated that mayor Luleka Gubula had cancelled the annual report and the integrated development plan and budget roadshow, scheduled for March 18.
“Ward councillors have now halted ward meetings which will be replaced by street or sub-village meetings with strict precautionary measures. While no Eastern Cape or Enoch Mgijima citizen has yet been diagnosed with the virus, we need to put all measures in place. We pleading with community members to refrain from disseminating fake news about the virus as this has caused unnecessary panic.
Municipal equipment will be sterilised and frontline offices will receive the necessary attention to protect employees and customers. We are aware that a number of people use our facilities for funerals and other activities and new conditions of using these facilities have been introduced. People booking these facilities will have to sign and commit that all those conditions will be adhered to.”
The statement concluded by indicating that an internal task team was dealing with matters associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
Several planned events were cancelled indefinitely this week, following president Cyril Ramaphosa’s pronouncement on Sunday for people to practise social distancing by not meeting in groups of more than 100.
The majority of schools in Komani and surrounding areas closed on Wednesday as per the president’s instruction, with some having closed earlier. Various other events have also been postponed, including The Rep’s Rainbow Run which was set to take place on Wednesday.
The South African National Blood Services (SANBS) which planned its annual award ceremony in Komani for Monday also postponed the event.
SANBS donor relations practitioner Maryke Harris said a decision was made to postpone all the donor award functions planned for this week to remain in line with the president’s appeal on Sunday evening.
“Blood drives will continue as usual, except for shopping centre drives as schools have extended the holiday period. Blood drives are an essential and core function and have to continue to ensure a sufficient blood supply to those whose lives depend on it. The drives are deemed safe as experts in infection control have increased disinfectant wipes, gloves and sanitisers being used. We appeal to all healthy individuals to please donate blood during this time to prevent another type of national crisis in terms of potential blood shortages. The new date of the awards will be communicated in due course.”
The Enoch Mgijima Municipality chief librarian Helen Sparg said they had received a communique from the department of sport, recreation, arts and culture head office (DSRAC) this week informing them to close all libraries, in line with the president’s plea to limit gatherings.
“All 11 libraries in Enoch Mgijima are closed to the public, but staff are there for people who want to return books. However, those who cannot return them during this closure will not be fined, but are urged to take good care of them. We planned to have a tea with senior citizens on Wednesday to promote the importance of reading, encourage them to open a book club and for them to be involved with libraries, but we had to be cancel the event. This outbreak affects all corners of society and it is upon every citizen to do what must be done to keep safe. On the bright side of things, we will get to spend time with our families, our homes will stop being places where we all come back to after work just to sleep, only to leave the next morning,” she chuckled.
Uncedo Taxi Association secretary, Doc Ngcongca, said they met with the department of health disaster management team and other stakeholders to discuss plans to deal with the outbreak.
“We will form a task team to distribute hand sanitisers to drivers and passengers at taxi ranks. We continue to make each other aware of the virus and precautionary measures to be taken if one feels sick. As part of our awareness campaign we put up posters about what people can do to keep themselves safe, along with the whatsapp number for people to get more information about coronavirus.
“We have also distributed masks in taxis, but the challenge is that a mask cannot be worn more than once. We will approach stakeholders about this and see where they can assist us. We encourage people to wear masks and buy their own.”
Queenstown Baptist Church pastor Michael Watson said the church would not meet as usual this Sunday, but had plans to conduct services in smaller groups.
“We have grouped ourselves to about 10 people to meet twice a week in ‘home churches” as we call them. On Sundays, we will do a live feed of a church service via our Facebook page for everyone to be part of. The Alcoholics Anonymous group will still meet at the church as usual because they are not a big group.”
Owner of Proclean Minty Nontsele, whose business supplies disinfectant products, among other things, said sales of disinfectants, sanitisers, gloves and masks had increased.
“We ran out of stock within an hour on Monday after the president’s address and we have had challenges with pricing as the prices of raw material have increased. I would like to caution against panic buying as there must be enough for everyone. It is not enough to protect yourself, but your neighbours and colleagues need to be protected too.”
Owner of Superclean, Sue Marriott, said chemical suppliers had tripled raw chemical prices for hand sanitisers and they were battling to source dust masks, spray bottles and surgical gloves. “We now have to pay cash upfront for the chemicals, whereas before we had accounts with these suppliers. We also have to fetch the products ourselves in Boksburg. This obviously puts a strain on the cashflow of any business. The panic by the public has been wild as people want to secure a lot of stock instead of also allowing others to buy.”
Marriott said strict measures were put in place in terms of purchasing of these highly-demanded products. She mentioned that the business was currently out of stock, but expected to get more in a week’s time. “We are trying our best to supply at a reasonable price,” Marriott added.
Despite the president’s call to prohibit gatherings of more than 100 people, hundreds of Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality general workers from surrounding areas were grouped at the Komani Post Office to collect their wages on Wednesday. They shared their frustration with The Rep, indicating that they were at risk of catching the virus.
Nomthandazo Smile from Ndlovukazi said residents of that area alone,who came to collect their wages, were more than 100. “I arrived here around 4am and it is now 3pm and I am still standing in a long queue. It is a shame because someone experienced a seizure while we were here. It pains us because the president has called for schools to close and has stopped conferences and other gatherings. There are people from more than five areas here. The supervisors are doing as they please. I probably have this coronavirus as I speak. ”