Pretoria - The provincial command council on Covid-19 is concerned about bringing a million more learners to schools in the wake of the increase in infections, Premier David Makhura said on Thursday.
Makhura, providing an update on the pandemic in Gauteng, said bringing back more learners to schools could potentially pressure a system already overwhelmed by the growing number of Covid-19 cases.
“We are concerned about adding a big number of learners because our system is okay with the Grades 7 and 12 at the moment. We are managing that risk at that level, and we are worried about the way we want to bring more learners. It may just put more pressure on what the system is able to carry at the moment,” he said.
At the same time, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said only Grades R, 6, and 11 would return to school on Monday.
This was an about-turn on an earlier decision for the rest of the grades to join their Grade 7 and 12 counterparts who returned to school at the beginning of the month.
Motshekga said the decision affected all provinces, and that the other grades would be phased in during this month in a differentiated approach within the stipulated time frames as per the gazette of June 29 published by the minister.
“We will adjust the reopening phases based on the risk-adjusted strategy, which is a considered attempt to balance our approach to school reopening taking into account all factors that affect the work we do.
“We are guided in this by an observation of the rising numbers of community transmissions throughout the country.
“We recognise that schools are based in communities and learners live in the same affected communities, and therefore a careful balancing act must be maintained,” said Motshekga.
The minister will, at the weekend, elaborate on the revised plans with the goal of phasing in the remaining grades to allow schools to reach normality by next month.
Gauteng has recorded 687 cases of learners and teachers who had tested positive for the virus. So far 71 schools have been closed for decontamination. At least 59 schools in Tshwane South and 18 in Tshwane North were affected.
Makhura expressed concern that the province was in the eye of the Covid-19 storm, with at least 3000 infections recorded daily.
He called on all people to change their behaviour regarding the pandemic by adhering to the health regulations laid down by the government.
He flagged a funeral recently attended by a large number of mourners in Mabopane as a source of the virus's spread in the northern part of the province.
Makhura said: “In an area where we had very low cases in Mabopane, our law-enforcement team had to go to that funeral and say this cannot be the case.”
The latest statistics showed that there were 1296 confirmed cases and 961 active cases in Mabopane, Ga-Rankuwa, Winterveld and Soshanguve.
Makhura said the number of mourners at funerals needed to be kept low, and people must ensure that they wore masks and sanitised their hands.
“People go to funerals and they don’t quite comply with the existing regulations,” he said.
He painted a bleak picture of the road ahead, especially with the country getting into the winter season.
“The pandemic is moving much faster. July is going to be a very difficult month,” he said.
Makhura was concerned with the behaviour of many people frequenting the CBDs in Joburg and Pretoria.
The western part of Pretoria - which includes Hercules, Atteridgeville and Laudium - was also a headache for the command council, he said.
Makhura warned that the province may reinstate some stringent measures to combat the spread of the virus.
The provincial executive committee will have a meeting tomorrow to look into Covid-19-related issues.
“As a provincial command council we are having consultation processes to make representation to the national command council on reinstating some of the harsher, stringent measures.”
In addition to ward-based response teams, he said, there may be a case for localised harder lockdowns.
Some of the stringent measures, he said, may include issues pertaining to the sale of alcohol.
“We can’t throw our hands in the air and say there is nothing we can do,” Makhura said.
The command council was in consultation with churches regarding compliance with the regulations.
He pleaded with the public to ensure that they wear masks and not be all over the place.
Makhura said the province needed 600 beds last month and would this month need 2077 beds.
“There will be an extra 2077 beds by the end of July, but we will still need more,” Makhura said.
Work was currently under way to construct field hospitals, which would provide an additional 2500 beds.
The areas identified for field hospitals were Nasrec, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni.
Makhura said the field hospitals were being handled in conjunction with national government.
The province has activated 600 within its health facilities; in Kopanong Hospital some beds have already been put in place and soon Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital would be furnished with more beds.
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