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Stigma hindering the tracing of Nelson Mandela Bay COVID-19 cases

May 25, 2020
Stigma hindering the tracing of Nelson Mandela Bay COVID-19 cases

Port Elizabeth - The Nelson Mandela Bay's COVID-19 Disaster Management Forum is concerned about recent incidents where people and families that have tested positive for COVI-19 have been stigmatised.

Since the announcement of the lockdown, the Department of Health and the Municipality’s Public Health Directorate have crisscrossed the City doing screening, testing and contact tracing.

The teams have noticed a trend of reluctance among people who have tested positive and their contacts to come out and submit themselves for isolation.

It emerged that the main infected persons and their families were fearful that if it became known that they tested positive, the community would stigmatise them. In some instances, infected residents and their families had even been chased out of their own communities.

“The Forum has received these worrying reports. It is an issue that has a negative effect on contact tracing and the isolation of those who are infected. This will ultimately hinder our efforts to flatten the curve.

"We plea with our communities to show compassion to and support individuals and families who are affected by this pandemic. People must understand that anyone can be infected by this virus and that immediate isolation and medical monitoring is critical. Work has already started to intensify our efforts through communication, public awareness raising and other means,” said the Forum Chairperson, Shane Brown.

The COVID-19 Disaster Management Forum comprises the following government departments: Departments of Health, Education, Public Works, SAPS, Social Development and SASSA; and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

The Forum sits twice a week to coordinate and receive reports on all the COVID-19 related work that has been done.

Motherwell has been identified as the most problematic area in the Metro in terms of adhering to regulations.

In Motherwell, a number of people continue to walk the streets, do not observe social distancing and do not wear masks.

More focus will henceforth be placed on Motherwell by the political leadership, organised structures and law enforcement and also through tailor-made communication tools.

Service delivery continues to be a focus area of the Municipality during this lockdown period. The streamlined and coordinated systems that were introduced by the COVID-19 Disaster Management Forum are yielding results.

On Water and Sanitation

Since the announcement of the national lockdown, the NMBM Water Services Division has installed 165 standpipes and 108 water tanks covering different informal settlements across the City.

Due to the infrastructural challenges in informal settlements, the City has dispatched 1285 chemical toilets to these communities.

The water disaster that the Nelson Mandela Bay is facing, is also receiving priority. An aggressive water awareness campaign, which combines a message about COVID-19, will be implemented.

This campaign is anchored around a turnaround plan that will be implemented by the NMBM Water Services Division. Included in the plan is a new strategy to I prove the turnaround tine for the fixing of water leaks.

Through this plan, a commitment has been made to attend to reported water leaks within 12 hours. As part of the plan, more water restrictors will be installed at the homes of all water users who exceed the prescribed 50 kilolitres per person per day.

Engagements will also be done with the Department of Health to urgently deal with water leaks in local schools. About 15 percent of water leaks are happening at schools.

Public Health

The message about the lockdown is starting to hit home. The feedback that the Forum has received from the Environmental Health Practitioners who have been working across the City indicates that communities are starting to understand the importance of these regulations.

In a number of areas like Shopping Malls and government service offices, people are starting to adhere to social distancing and the wearing of masks on their own. They now also understand that it is imperative to stay at home.

However, Motherwell remains a challenge in relation to adherence to regulations.

The decontamination and disinfection of municipal buildings is continuing. This includes Customer Care Centres and all municipal offices where people are attended to.

Human Settlements (di-densification)

Under the NMBM Human Settlements di-densification programme, 145 people have been moved from densely populated shacks to temporary houses on serviced sites.

The programme has focused on elderly and physically challenged persons. However, we continue to experience resistance from different communities, which has resulted in delays.

As part of efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the NMBM Human Settlements Directorate has distributed 18568 sanitisers, 17108 bars of soaps, 18762 gloves and 18762 masks to different informal settlements across the Metro.

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