“The storm is here. It is with us now,” KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala warned on Sunday.
He said that given the rate at which COVID-19 infections are growing in the province, everything needs to be done to save lives. Zikalala emphasised the importance of COVID-19 patients being quarantined or isolated at government facilities to contain the spread.
“This will help to ensure that patients are well monitored and less likely to transmit the virus to others unlike when one is at home.”
Zikalala was speaking during the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Command Council media briefing on Sunday.
The province accounts for more than 27% of new reported cases and remains the fourth-worst hit countrywide.
New infections are increasing at a faster rate – at about 3 000 infections daily, he said.
Just a week ago, KwaZulu-Natal had 40 045 positive cases and that number had jumped to 64 061 infections on Sunday.
Zikalala said all areas, districts and sub-districts in the province were affected with eThekwini and the UMgungundlovu districts recording more than half of the daily cases.
No district has not reported deaths, he added.
“That should send a message that the storm is here and all of us must take full responsibility,” he said.
The province has 16 401 beds available of which more than 3 000 are for self-isolation.
Instead of building more quarantine facilities, the KwaZulu-Natal government has hired hotels, bed and breakfast establishments and lodges which have a capacity of 11 833 beds, while 1 162 quarantine beds are in public sector facilities.
“The trends and analysis tell us that KwaZulu-Natal is now in the eye of the storm. The picture has dramatically changed and has arrived at a point where almost everyone knows somebody who has been infected with COVID-19,” he said.
“The storm is raging,” he cautioned.
As of 25 July, the province has had 1 822 patients admitted in both public and private hospitals of which 272 patients required intensive care treatment and 57% were ventilated.
He urged people to be more vigilant and adhere to hygiene protocols, wear masks, wash hands with water and soap and practice social distancing.
The province raised concerns about the evidence showing that people rely too much on alternative treatment and are only visiting health facilities when it is too late.
“Like any other ailment, time is of the essence,” he stressed.
“We’re not against traditional or alternative medicines at all; rather we’re encouraging people to use an integrated approach in fighting COVID-19.”
He also spoke about the stigma that some people hold towards going to the hospitals. “Some have a false belief that if you go to the hospital, you’ll die,” he said, adding that the clinicians are working tirelessly to help the sick.
Zikalala has hit out against those who flout funeral regulations.
“Funerals have become larger. We want to plead to people to adhere to the regulation that regulates the number of people who can attend funerals and other ceremonies, which is no more than 50 people and a lesser number at the burial sites.”