Violence, looting force KZN vaccination sites and clinics to close
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DURBAN - THE vaccination programme has come to a standstill amid violence and looting that have engulfed KwaZulu-Natal and parts of other provinces.
The eThekwini Municipality on Monday closed health-care facilities, including clinics and community vaccination sites. “The municipality has closed its clinics due to threats that have been directed at health facilities in the city. The ongoing civil unrest has also affected community vaccination sites which have been unable to operate today (on Monday),” said Lindiwe Khuzwayo, eThekwini Municipality’s head of communications.
Dis-Chem on Monday announced the temporary closure of all their KZN stores, including their testing and vaccination sites, on their social media accounts.
“Due to the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, Dis-Chem pharmacies, Dis-Chem vaccination sites and Dis-Chem drive-through testing stations in the area will be closed today (on Monday).”
However, the municipality still urged the community to register for phase 2 of the vaccination roll-out programme.
“Residents who qualify for phase 2 of the vaccination roll out, which includes those aged 50 and above, are urged to continue to register to receive the vaccine. They can dial *134*832*ID number# or send the word REGISTER to 0600 123 456 on WhatsApp, or alternatively enter their details at vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za,” said Khuzwayo.
Meanwhile, essential health workers were unable to report to work over the past few days because of the violence. Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane pleaded with the public to be a shield of protection for health workers so that they can get to work safely to save people’s lives. “As the government does its best to deal with this situation, we are pleading with every individual to create a situation where health-care workers are not impeded from getting to work.
“Those who are protesting need to realise that by blocking health workers or ambulances from doing their job, they could be placing the lives of their own relatives in jeopardy,” Simelane said.
According to the Department of Health’s reports in the province, night shift workers had trouble returning home on Sunday night because of the destruction caused by the violent protests. An ambulance was apparently set alight in Howick, while another was stoned in Mariannhill. This has also led to the department advising patients who are supposed to undergo elective surgery, together with those who had minor illnesses, not to come to hospital until things settled down in the province.
The DA and IFP did not welcome the decision to close the health facilities including vaccination sites and clinics.
“We understand that the situation is horrific … but the municipality should not lose sight of the bigger problem that we have at hand, the pandemic,” said Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL, the DA’s KZN spokesperson.
“The closure of the vaccination sites is unacceptable and a sign of failure in leadership in our governance and will cost lives in the province. The mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, should have called for calm so as to stop the looting. Another issue is that the government is failing to enforce the alert level 4 regulations.”
The IFP felt that the government should do better. “The closure of health facilities means that our people will no longer be able to fetch medicine from their respective clinics. Moreover, the vaccination roll-out programme has been slow. We call on the government to do better,” said Ncamisile Nkwanyana, MPL, the IFP’s provincial health spokesperson.