DA concerned about Gauteng’s preparedness for possible Covid fifth wave



The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday said it was concerned the Gauteng Department of Health lacked effective leadership as Covid cases shot up in the province, in a likely fifth wave of infections ahead of the winter season.

Covid-19 fifth wave

DA MPL and spokesperson for health in Gauteng, Jack Bloom, said in March the acting head of the department Dr Sibongile Zungu left for undisclosed reasons, with her post remaining unfilled.

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Bloom also raised concerns that the department had not had a permanent head since Professor Mkhululi Lukhele resigned in October 2020, after he was implicated in the misspending of personal protective equipment (PPE) funds.

“Other senior posts, including a chief financial officer, are still filled by acting personnel,” Bloom said in a statement.

Gauteng has been recording an increase in Covid-19 infections over the last few days.

Out of the 3,222 new coronavirus cases reported by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Sunday, the province had the majority of new cases at 1,727 (54%) and 10, 933 active Covid cases.

‘Alarming jump’

Bloom said the jump in Gauteng’s Covid cases was a concern for alarm, especially given the number of posts at the health department that remained unfilled.

“At this stage we do not know the severity of the Omicron sub-variant which appears to be driving the new wave of cases, but hospitals can expect a flood of Covid patients in the next few weeks.

“There are already 1,272 Covid patients in both private and public hospitals in Gauteng, which has risen from below 1,000 patients less than three weeks ago.”

He said the shortages of staff was the main problem in treating Covid patients at public hospitals.

Bloom accused Gauteng Premier David Makhura of “failing badly” in not appointing competent and honest top managers to fix the crisis in hospitals.

“The scandal is that many of the newly built wards for Covid patients are empty because they have no staff or equipment.

“Meanwhile, existing medical staff are mentally and physically exhausted by the strain of treating previous Covid patients and the backlogs in treatment for other patients,” he said.

Fifth wave warning

Meanwhile, epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, warned earlier this month that the fifth wave of Covid-19 infections was likely expected in South Africa in early May.

Abdool Karim said this was largely dependent on the emergence of a new coronavirus variant in the country.

“If the past trends continue, we can expect that we will see a fifth wave sometime in early May. But that’s always dependent on whether there is a new variant,” he said.

“We need to make sure that we continue testing as much as possible so that when a new variant comes along, we test for it and we know it exists and we can monitor it.”

Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe

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