Since the Overberg was named as a hotspot by Pres Cyril Ramaphosa in May, the Overberg District Municipality (ODM) has rolled out a district-wide hotspot plan, in addition to the Coronavirus intervention plan that was launched in March.

According to Reinard Geldenhuys, head of Disaster Management of the ODM, the objectives of the plan are to slow the spread of the virus, limit morbidity, protect vulnerable communities and increase economic activities.

“We need to prepare ourselves as the numbers of positive cases continue to rise. There has been a sharp increase in Hermanus and Grabouw, while there is concern for Gansbaai and Villiersdorp, which are now also treated as hotspots by the District Joint Operations Centre (JOC),” said Geldenhuys.

An Overberg hotspot team has been established, with representatives from all the municipalities in the district, SAPS and the provincial government. The national government still needs to nominate a minister to the team that is headed by Solly Fourie, Provincial Head of Economic Development. The team provides strategic oversight and direction to the JOC and must give weekly feedback to cabinet on its progress.

“Slowing the spread, helping those in need and bringing our economy back to life are at the heart of the work we do in the district,” said Geldenhuys.

He added that the role of each resident is equally important. “If we are to limit the spread and keep our communities and vulnerable people safe, we must all be responsible. We are really worried about those who do not wear masks – especially when they are in a taxi, shop, or church. If you are in a small space with others, with limited fresh air circulating for longer than 15 minutes, you are at a high risk of contracting the virus. It’s important to protect yourself and your loved ones at all times.”

The plan also includes a focus on humanitarian relief and food security, both through direct and indirect support, and on implementing opportunities to facilitate an economic recovery.

To assist businesses, the team last week took delivery of 400 (of 1 000) kits containing hand sanitiser, masks, and other items to support registered spaza shops in the area.

The hotspot plan also includes continued testing of potential COVID-19 cases, and treatment for those who need it. Those who cannot self-isolate are housed at designated quarantine and isolation sites in the district.

Questions were raised after the provincial government decided to close one of the quarantine sites in Hermanus last month, after patients complained about the state of the facility and a lack of insulation against the cold and damp.

Jandré Bakker, Head of Communication of the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works, said there are a total of seven isolation and quarantine facilities in the Overberg, with a bed capacity of 307. These facilities include guesthouses, lodges and municipal facilities, and a total of 159 people are currently housed in these facilities.

Bakker said it is important for the public to note that there is no truth in the perception that these facilities are like a hotel. “Many sites have either a shared or dormitory style set-up. This is especially the case with isolation facilities where sharing a bedroom or bathroom does not pose a risk. All patients receive three meals a day.”

According to him, an additional 17 sites in the district have been identified and are ready to be activated. These facilities will add an additional 714 beds.

“We are not disclosing where these sites are as we have had problems with members of the public contacting these facilities directly to book themselves in. A patient must be referred by the Department of Health to either a quarantine or isolation facility. The department will guide the person on what the processes are and transport for the patient to the site will be provided,” Bakker said.

The difference between an isolation and a quarantine site is that isolation is intended for a person who tested positive for COVID-19 but is showing none or mild symptoms, and separating them from others to prevent the spread of infection or contamination. Quarantine means taking in a person who is not showing any symptoms of COVID-19 but was potentially exposed to the virus, and separating them from others to prevent the possible spread of infection or contamination.

Alan Winde, Western Cape Premier, last week announced that the latest modelling scenarios for the province indicate that infections are expected to peak later than was originally projected. The peak is likely to be reached between the end of July and the beginning of August.

“This peak is also flatter than was originally projected. This means that we will not have as many hospitalisations and deaths at the peak as we originally thought. As a result, it is projected that 5 450 beds will be needed at the peak, should this scenario hold. This is lower than both the original provisioning scenario from April (6 304), and the previous national modelling from May (7 800).

“However, this flatter trajectory would last for longer. This means potentially more cumulative deaths of approximately 10 000 people during the pandemic. The virus could be with us for longer than we thought, with this first peak only ending towards the end of November,” Winde said.

Residents are urged to report unsafe behaviour by a COVID-19 positive person, such as not adhering to the health regulations, by contacting their local police station, or by calling the provincial hotline on 021 928 4102.

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