“Things are definitely getting real and we need to be safe!” This was the response of a resident of Louis Trichardt on a local social media group upon hearing that Louis Trichardt recorded its first positive Covid-19 case.
The only official detail known about the patient is what was made available by the Limpopo Department of Health on 1 April (and it is not a joke). According to them the 40-year-old man, who became the eighteenth person in Limpopo to test positive for the virus, recently travelled overseas. He has identified ten possible contacts of which six could be traced by Wednesday.
While awaiting an official response from the Limpopo Department of Health, the Zoutpansberger was unofficially informed that the Bangladeshi man and his family were placed in self-isolation in Eltivillas and are being monitored by authorities. It is said that the man runs a cell phone shop in Elim and it is not sure how much contact he could have had with people locally.
“That means that Elim will now be next on the list with people who are positive ... no words ... with all due respect the sh%t has hit the fan .... BIG TIME,” was the response from another participant on the WhatsApp group.
With the relaxation of restrictions on taxi services to allow SASSA grant beneficiaries to come and draw their money and do some much-needed shopping, Louis Trichardt’s streets were abuzz with people since Monday. By Friday morning, long queues of people still stood outside local food shops with customers displaying little to no interest in social distancing. Similar scenes in towns and cities across South African have been reported the past week.
As citizens continue to ignore calls to stay at home and limit their movements, authorities fear for the worse. This was evident from Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s speech during the launch of the large-scale Covid-19 testing campaign in targeted communities on Wednesday. “The message of stay at home and importance of hygiene must be made more emphatically. The message must be that Covid-19 is serious but can be defeated and we need each person to make this a personal fight to save the nation,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize said the actions of each person will count. “Let us break the chain of the coronavirus infection. Next month the flu season starts, thus making more people sick with similar symptoms, and therefore no way of distinguishing common colds from an upsurge of Covid-19 infection. These will flood our clinics and hospitals and create fertile ground for Coronavirus to spread or be masked in its presentation. This means what we may currently be experiencing is the calm before a heavy and devastating storm. There will therefore be no further warning before the pounding descends upon us,” said Mkhize.
The national lockdown came into effect at midnight on 26 March. Government has, however, relaxed several restrictions to accommodate citizens. This include relaxing loading restriction for minibus taxi who may now have a 70% loading. Trading restrictions have also been relaxed regarding the informal sector as published in the Government Gazette (number 43199) on 2 April. The gazette states that grocery stores and wholesale produce markets, including spaza shops and informal food traders, may operate with written permission from a municipal authority.
What impact the relaxation of restrictions will have on allowing people to move more freely remains to be seen. On Thursday, 2 April, the official number of confirmed Covid-19 cases for Limpopo stood at 16, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). According to the Limpopo Department of Health, however, the number of confirmed cases stood at 19. This was confirmed by Mr Neil Shikwambana, provincial spokesperson for the Department of Health, on Friday morning. Nationally, there were 1 462 confirmed Covid-19 cases by Thursday, with 47 965 tests being conducted. Five people have died because of the virus, including Prof Gita Ramjee, who has several family links to Louis Trichardt. Her husband, Praveen Ramjee, was born here and grew up in the town. Prof Ramjee, from Westville in Durban, died on Tuesday in the Umhlanga Hospital from Covid-19-related complications. She recently travelled to London where she visited her two sons, who live there.
Date:03 April 2020 - By: Andries van Zyl
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.