Three SANDF armoured vehicles in the Durban CBD yesterday. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
Three SANDF armoured vehicles in the Durban CBD yesterday. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Relief arriving for ravaged Durban

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Jul 17, 2021

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With additional army deployments arriving in the city yesterday, Friday, alongside many social media posts of tankers carrying fuel and food relief trucks heading into the province, Durbanites could sense some semblance of normality.

Residents have been terrorised and traumatised as thousands of looters smashed and burned the city and other areas in the province.

However, another cloud looms as health experts have warned of an expected massive surge in Covid infection rates and resulting deaths, because of the uncontrolled behaviour of looters described as “multiple superspreader events” which also impacted Covid testing and the vaccination roll-out programme.

Yesterday morning, President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived in the city with a delegation of ministers who met business and community leaders. He was also driven through areas which were devastated by rioters. He thanked communities for coming out in such large numbers and standing up to defend South Africa.

“Police will go after instigators – we have identified a good number of them. We are not going to allow anarchy, so much damage has been done. Here in KZN alone 95 people died. This was so unfortunate, people have lost their jobs,” he said.

Meanwhile social media groups, such as Rebuild SA and Durban Clean Up, among many others, rapidly sprung into action from midweek, with South Africans across the country jumping in to help.

By Thursday and yesterday, details of local small farm holdings and community suppliers of essentials, such as bread, milk, eggs and fresh vegetables were being shared widely on WhatsApp groups.

Long queues formed outside major retailers.

Fuel was being sold in limited amounts at some garages to share current stock in the province, although tankers were spotted on the N3 heading to Durban. The N3 Toll Concession confirmed yesterday that the N3 route between Durban and Gauteng had reopened at 10am.

Yesterday 60 000 loaves and 60 000 litres of milk were being distributed to communities across Durban through a collection of 20 different businesses, NGOs and NPOs, including Muslims for Humanity and the Natal Memon Jamaat Foundation (NMJ).

NMJ chairman Mahomed Gany holding one of the many trays of bread distributed yesterday.

NMJ chairman Mahomed Gany said plans to bring food to Durban started on Tuesday night and that various community organisations and individual businesses had pooled resources to take bread and milk into different communities from a central city location.

Bread and milk being given to those in need in Musgrave, Durban, yesterday.

SANZAP’s Mohamed Riaz Fakie, who was at one of the distribution points on Thursday, said Gauteng community organisations and businesses had funded the food and milk, as well as private security, to get the goods transported from Gauteng.

eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said estimated damage to property, equipment and infrastructure ran into the billions, putting 129 000 jobs at risk and affected 55 000 traders. He said many families were expected to lose their livelihoods,

The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry NPC said yesterday, Friday, “the road to recovery will be a long one”. It said its leadership had met national ministers this week to discuss the way forward. This included disaster response action points, such as securing national key points and re-establishing critical supply chains.

The chamber said: “If the situation is not arrested immediately, we can expect a withdrawal of foreign direct investment.”

The large gatherings of looters brought the entire Covid-19 vaccination programme to a halt and a surge in third wave Covid-19 cases is expected.

The number of infections in the province was reported as 373 285 on Thursday.

Yesterday, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and vaccinologist at Wits University Professor Shabir Madhi said the looting spree created multiple superspreaders.

“There was a problem for KZN even before this week as it (number of infections) was very much already on an upward trajectory with daily cases, which had continued to increase over the last three weeks despite level 4 lockdown restrictions.

“The more gatherings, the more infections. Testing for Covid almost completely collapsed, so the true number of cases is already underestimated.

“There were multiple superspreader events: 80% of infections are directly or indirectly connected to gatherings. All this will manifest as an increase in hospitalisations and deaths,” said Madhi.

Dr Mary Stephen, technical officer at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, said yesterday: “Any type of mass gathering, including riots, could increase the risk of Covid-19 spread, especially if public health and social measures were not complied with.

“Secondly, riots could prevent people from getting out to get vaccinated or accessing care for Covid-19 infections. This could also pose a challenge to the Covid-19 response effort,” said Stephen.

Netcare Group CEO Dr Richard Friedland confirmed earlier in the week that contingency plans had been implemented, but that they remained on high alert to respond to possible developments.

“We are deeply saddened to see the suffering of our fellow South Africans and wish that our nation and its people could have been spared this trauma, particularly in light of the hardships and loss of life already being experienced due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” said Friedland.

The Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC) also issued a statement yesterday, voicing “deep concern that essential healthcare services have been badly affected by the ongoing violence and destruction of property”. It noted that several medical centres, practices and pharmacies were looted during the rioting and the Covid vaccination programme was disrupted.

“When we see access to healthcare facilities blocked, medicines looted, blood service premises vandalised and oxygen deliveries delayed, it is our duty as a regulator in the provision of health services to spell out clearly that such actions are life-threatening and potentially deadly. The protests have also put additional strain on the health system and healthcare workers, already stretched to the limit by the surge in Covid-19 cases,” stated OHSC.

The Independent on Saturday

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