“Employers must take measures to protect the health and safety of everyone in their workplace including employees of contractors, self-employed people and volunteers,” the minister said. Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters
“Employers must take measures to protect the health and safety of everyone in their workplace including employees of contractors, self-employed people and volunteers,” the minister said. Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters

DA submits PAIA applications for Covid-19 data from seven provinces

By ANA Reporter Time of article published May 4, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - The DA was on Monday submitting applications in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) in seven provinces to compel their health departments to publish detailed Covid-19 statistics on a daily basis.

The DA's spokesperson for health MP Siviwe Gwarube said with the exception of the Western Cape and Gauteng, provinces were failing to provide daily statistics as to infections per region, fatalities related to the novel coronavirus and, crucially, the number of tests conducted every day. 

"The Democratic Alliance provincial spokespersons on the health portfolio will be submitting Promotion of Access to Information Act applications to the provincial health departments, compelling them to release daily, detailed Covid-19 statistics."

Gwarube said the information would give the country a clear idea of community transmission of the virus.

"There seems to be a desire in some provinces to withhold data from the public for no reason at all. As an example of this absurdity, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government is claiming that these statistics are embargoed. Other provinces are either inconsistent in the sharing of this information or it does not happen at all."

She said the stance of the authorities in KwaZulu-Natal flew in the face of Section 32(1)(a) of the Constitution, which determines that everyone has a right of access to any information held by the state. 

"This is more so information relating to a global health crisis."

She said she had raised the issue with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize because it was essential that provinces provided information in the same manner so that it could be clear to what extent each contributed to the number of Covid-19 tests conducted.

"I have also made the case for transparency with regards to provincial testing strategies so that we can be assured that each province is testing enough people in relation to their population."

She said the absence of data meant that the failure by health authorities in the Eastern Cape to get testing up to speed had gone unnoticed for far too long.

"The crisis in the Eastern Cape, where less than 10,000 tests were conducted in five weeks, was discovered much later than it should have because there was no requirement for public release of testing figures."

Mkhize recently sent mobile testing units to the Eastern Cape and seconded a senior departmental official to Nelson Mandela Bay when he learnt that testing was lagging and the metro lacked support from provincial authorities.

"In my own reading of the numbers, I have a feeling we need more testing because we will probably find more people. The number of deaths and the reported positive cases do not match," the minister was quoted as saying. 

The Eastern Cape on Sunday had 122 confirmed Covid-19 cases. The Northern Cape had 24, the North West 36 and Limpopo 37. 

These figures are a fraction of the number of confirmed infections in the Western Cape, which stood at 3,044 on Sunday, while Gauteng had 1,624 cases.

Gwarube said the Western Cape, where the DA is in power, began weeks ago to do targeted testing, tracking and tracing to obtain an accurate picture of how the disease is spreading within communities and that this was useful in actively curbing the infection rate.

"Epidemiological evidence suggests that if you have a far more targeted approach like this, as opposed to a generalised screening effort, you are likely to identify the requisite interventions swiftly and eventually flatten the curve."

Information released by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has shown that the Western Cape conducted 541 tests per 100,000 people between March 4 and April 27, followed by Gauteng with 439 per 100,000 people and the Free State with 284 per 100,000 people. 

The DA called on the NICD to provide a weekly update on this information.

"This is critical for public accountability and also guides urgent interventions that are needed almost in real time. Information about a global pandemic that is wreaking havoc in our country should never be considered classified. 

"The DA will continue fighting for this information to be made public so that we can ensure that we are not shooting in the dark."

African News Agency

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