Eastern Cape Government concerned about snaking queues at Public Service Offices

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane has revealed that the province has engaged with relevant national departments on how to deal with public service offices that are potentially becoming COVID-19 super-spreaders due to snaking long queues.

These include the post offices, Department of Home Affairs and Department of Employment and Labour offices.

Mabuyane said the province was engaging with the relevant Ministers on how these could be addressed.  

“These are proving problematic to manage due to long queues and other system failures,” he said, adding that social distancing was also not being observed at these centres.

“It’s a terrible thing we are seeing in rural areas and towns. Our people are dying and these areas have the potential to be super-spreaders if they aren’t as we speak.”

He said there was a need for interim measures to be put in place to limit the risk of the spread of the virus.

Mabuyane on Tuesday made the call while updating the media on the province’s COVID-19 containment and mitigation plan. The coastal province, with 159 767 confirmed cases, is home to Port Elizabeth, one of the regions declared a hotspot by President Cyril Ramaphosa during a national address last month.

Currently, the province has 1 606 COVID-19 patients in general wards of public and private hospitals.

In private hospitals, a further 268 are on oxygen while 124 are in ICU, 17 in high care and 46 on ventilators.

In public hospitals, 598 patients are on oxygen while 23 are in ICU, 18 on ventilators and 25 patients in high care.

Despite this, Mabuyane said the province was currently seeing less admission of patients than it did on 10 December.

The Premier in the briefing also urged law enforcement agencies in the province to up the ante in dealing with COVID-19 lockdown regulation transgressors.

Operations in the province have seen 18.3 million litres of liquor and 462 000 grams of drugs confiscated.

Mabuyane warned the public that law enforcement would be unforgiving as they lay down the law.

“I want to warn in particular tavern owners that we will close their establishments if we arrive and find a situation where there is non-adherence to non-pharmaceutical health protocols,” said the Premier.

During the briefing, Mabuyane also condemned the “deliberate” destruction of water infrastructure reported in Amathole and OR Tambo District Municipalities. These, he said, were allegedly in the name of labour disputes.

“We welcome the breakthrough that Amathole DM has reached with Labour and we encourage OR Tambo District Municipalities to engage workers in good faith knowing that the municipality is mandated to provide basic services to the majority of our people,” he said.

“The Revolution is about the toiling down-trodden masses not the privileged few.”

As government, he said the province was willing and ready to create a conducive environment for potential investors who want to enter the private health care space in the Eastern Cape.

“We will be engaging the private sector to pump in more investments into our healthcare sector,” he said.

“Another area of concern which we will take up more robustly with our national government colleagues is the provision of services in post offices and home affairs offices.”

The province, he said, is “not seeing improvements in the provision of services in those two services points and our people are at risk of getting infected while standing in long queues”.

“As of 14 December 2020, R17.4 million (working capital inclusive) funding of the Jobs fund was approved for 22 distressed businesses in manufacturing, agro processing and tourism to protect 1123 jobs,” he said.

“About 43 applications from businesses are in the pipeline for processing and these are to protect 1 098 people from losing their jobs. The target going forward is to provide R39.2 million for distressed businesses to save a minimum of 2 700 jobs.”

“As of the 09th December 2020, R3 billion of the COVID-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) was paid to 72 188 employers benefiting more than 730 000 employees in our province,” he said.