Government prepares for township relocations to stop spread of coronavirus: report

Government has identified 29 densely populated areas for relocation as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, the Sunday Times reports.

Thousands of residents could be moved from their homes as part of the operation, with elderly, disabled and shack dwellers likely be the first to be evacuated and housed in emergency accommodation.

The Department of Human Settlements said it has made 17 land parcels available for the project.

While government did not state exactly which areas were impacted due to the sensitivity and logistics of the project, it said that the project is at an advanced stage.

“The relocation of households is dependent on a number of factors and these include susceptibility to the danger of a virulent spread of Covid-19, makeup of households and consent of households to be relocated,” said Human Settlements national director Neville Chainee.

“There is no set figure to the number of households to be relocated.”

Figures continue to rise

The Department of Health has announced that there are 80 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the country as of Saturday (4 April).

This brings the total for the country to 1,585 cases with 53,937 tests conducted.

The country recorded two more deaths on Friday as the government continues to fight Covid-19 which has infected more than 1.1 million people worldwide.

The two new deaths include an 81-year-old female and an 80-year-old man – both from KwaZulu-Natal – and have no history of travelling anywhere – abroad or locally. The Minister said there were two more suspected Covid-19 related deaths that were yet to be confirmed.

While the government is working tirelessly to flatten the curve, Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said he was still concerned that the numbers are “slowly” increasing.

Virtual meeting

On day 9 of the 21-day nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, the three spheres of government met to align the country’s response the pandemic.

The Presidential Coordinating Council (PCC) meeting, convened by president Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday, assessed progress and challenges on the implementation of the lockdown.

The virtual meeting also kick-started engagements between national and provincial governments towards an economic recovery strategy.

Co-chaired by deputy president David Mabuza, the PCC is composed of Ministers, the Premiers of all nine provinces, as well as the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

At Saturday’s meeting, the committee received a report from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints).

Adherence to the national lockdown regulations, ongoing contact tracing, accommodation requirements, including identified quarantine sites and the roll out of the mass community testing programme, were some of the issues the report touched on.

The meeting heard that 5 400 field workers, to date, have been trained and have already been deployed to various areas across the country to test communities for the virus.

Other field workers are still to undergo training.

In addition, priority districts, as well as 993 wards, have been identified. These comprise the most vulnerable and at risk communities as well as areas with high rates of infection.

Ramping up testing

Provinces are working with the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) to identify testing sites, which will include both fixed and mobile test facilities.

Through the COVID-19 Data Management Centre, government is receiving early warning of potential clusters of infections and thus deploying pre-emptive targeted testing in identified areas.

It further receives daily estimates on infections, assesses local healthcare capacity and the efficacy of the lockdown.

Medical supplies

The PCC further considered the security of supply of essential medical supplies, including regulations that have been established to restrict exports of essential medical goods.

The Presidency said government is ramping up efforts to build-up local manufacturing capacity. It is also assessing the capacity of State Owned Entities to produce essential supplies.

The PCC acknowledged the work done by the Department of Water and Sanitation to increase access to water through the delivery of water tanks and tankers across the country.

To date, more than 6 000 tanks and 723 tankers have been delivered to various communities.

It is expected that this programme will be significantly escalated in the coming days and weeks, and further maintained when the pandemic has passed.

Delivering their provincial reports, the Premiers stressed the need for greater coordination and communication around the National State of Disaster regulations across all levels of government.

The Premiers reaffirmed the regulations, as gazetted as binding across all provinces.

Read: What the law says about South Africans who recklessly infect people with the coronavirus

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Government prepares for township relocations to stop spread of coronavirus: report