KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala monitored the level of compliance to Covid-19 protocols around Durban’s townships on Sunday.PHOTO:
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has clarified earlier comments that a church service at the KwaSizabantu Mission was attended by 2 000 people and was a so-called superspreader event.
He clarified that it was actually a protest group which was demanding jobs from the mission.
He had earlier said that 48 people tested positive after a service. It was actually the protesters who contracted the virus.
At a briefing on Sunday afternoon, he said the province has recorded a number of clusters in the health care settings, church gatherings, retails shops, funerals, ceremonies and parties.
He said: “The recent cluster outbreaks in gatherings have proven to be fatal such as a church gathering that took place in Assisi Convent in Ugu District, which saw 6 nuns sadly succumb to Covid-19. Another gathering was in Kwasizabantu in Umzinyathi district, which was attended by more than 2000 people!!! And I repeat: 2000 people. It is unthinkable. It is hardly surprising that at least 48 of the attendees have now since tested positive. We once again wish to issue a warning to our fellow compatriots that we are now confronted by a dangerous outbreak of Covid-19 in KZN. We appeal that everyone acts responsibly.”
The Premier’s Office later corrected their statement, saying the gathering had in fact been a protest at KwaSizabantu mission by people who said the mission discriminates against locals in terms of offering them jobs.
The church is currently being investigated by amongst other bodies, the SA human rights commission and the Cultural, Religious And Linguistic Communities (CRL) rights commission after accusations of rape, assaults and other human rights violations were levelled against the mission’s leaders.
The church’s latest conduct, coupled with the behaviour of citizens attending funerals and beach revellers who continue to flout Covid-19 protocols, are largely to blame for the recent spike in infections in the province.
Zikalala, who briefed the media in Durban on Sunday, said the provincial government was concerned about organisations and individuals not adhering to Covid-19 protocols.
“There is a high level of non-compliance with proper wearing of masks, which seems to be influenced by alcohol consumption and a high appetite for gatherings, especially in areas of entertainment that pose a high risk of being super spreaders – including the beaches.
“We’ve also noted cellphone camera footage depicting scenes of overcrowding at beaches, and failure to wear masks by people swimming in rivers, and elsewhere,” Zikalala said.
As of Saturday, KZN, which is one of the country’s Covid-19 hotspots, had recorded 154 000 infections, with close to 3 000 cases registered on Saturday alone.
Despite the provincial government imposing more restrictions in public spaces and the province’s beaches, which will be shut on December 25, 26 and 31, January 1, 2 and 3, a lack of compliance continues to be a major problem.
“We wish to remind citizens to conduct themselves responsibly. The wearing of masks is compulsory, and adhering to social distancing is absolutely necessary.
“So is the need to respect the 11 pm to 4 am curfew that has been put in place. Those who are intent on flouting safety regulations had better be warned: action will be taken against you,” Zikalala said.
The spike in Covid-19 infections in KZN has created fears that the province’s health facilities would soon be overwhelmed.
Zikalala, who also blamed “reckless” liquor outlet owners for the spread, said there were currently 717 Covid-19 patients in the province’s health facilities, with a further 1 274 patients having been admitted for assessment.
“We also want to dispel the notion that our Health Care facilities are beginning to succumb. Yes, the health care facilities are experiencing high demand, but the system has not collapsed due to pressure. It is up to all of us to ensure that we do not get to that stage.”
The provincial government’s concerns around the high level of non-compliance comes after police minister Bheki Cele had identified KZN as one of the province’s Covid-19 and crime hotspot.
While the police were under added pressure to enforce the Covid-19 regulations, Cele said the focus remained on fighting crime in the country.
“I’ve told the police that they should serve, protect and prevent crime. This was their role before Covid-19 and will remain their constitutional mandate,” he said