A year of Covid-19 in SA: KZN Health MEC longs for well-deserved break
Durban - KwaZulu-Natal's Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu is looking forward to a holiday.
She has had many sleepless nights over the past year and has been working non-stop since the first case in the country of a person being infected with Covid -19 was recorded in KwaZulu- Natal.
“I remember vividly that we were at the State of the Province Address. The premier was on the podium when the news broke. I went crazy, I did not know what to do and went outside. I started calling everyone. We have been working for a year since the first outbreak and haven’t stopped,” she said.
She said spending time with her two daughters, Lwazilwandile, 20 and Lethukwazi, 15 was seemingly impossible.
But Simelane-Zulu has no regrets being at the helm of fighting the pandemic.
She said being a woman in a challenging government position has taught her to balance work and family life. She said work has been very different and much more frightening because of the dangers associated with it.
She said scientists have warned that there might be a third wave during the winter season.
“We have called on the people to take the vaccine so that at least we get herd immunity. To get to that level, we need at least 67% of the population to get vaccinated,” she said.
She was excited that health workers were successfully vaccinated with 10 800 doses of the vaccine. She said the second phase will be for the frontline workers and those above 60 years-old including people with comorbidities.
Simelane-Zulu was criticised when people said she was reluctant to take the vaccine.
“I could not jump the queue to take advantage based on my position as the health MEC, but I will be vaccinated during our next visit to Benedictine hospital in Zululand. I am office based and far from danger compared to nurses who are faced with positive cases daily. I felt it was immoral to rush for the vaccine when there are more deserving health workers,” she said.
She said the vaccine would help prevent the further spread while preparing for the worst.
The department has launched a lunchtime chat programme that runs on different media platforms including Facebook and radio stations. She said it was a creative way of sharing information without having to breach the Covid-19 regulations by visiting communities.
The MEC and her team of experts including nurses and doctors engage to questions sent by community members.
“When the first wave hit, it was gradual and incremental, but the second wave was a huge surprise. It just hit us like a hammer. We also have war- rooms chaired by doctors and scientists where we study, scrutinise different theories to see which one is workable,” said Simelane-Zulu.
Simelane-Zulu expressed a "personal draining" experience after losing her uncle to Covid-19. She could not attend the funeral because she was in quarantine.
Among provincial colleagues and fellow leaders she lost through Covid-19 were Ricardo Mthembu who was the ANC KZN spokesperson and Bheki Ntuli, MEC for Transport and Community Liaison.
"I have also lost very close friends, that just hit very hard. I was heartbroken and shattered. At one point, our office was closed because everyone was extremely sick. It was so worrying that some of them had to go to hospitals. There is not a single person who may say they have not been affected. We should be changing the way we do things," Simelane-Zulu said.
She said her childhood friend recently lost her parents two days apart.
The MEC said she was exhausted and needed to recharge her batteries.
Simelane-Zulu said she was still making plans for her holiday destination.
“I wish to go away to the Drakensberg or have a beach holiday where there is a calmness to rest and sleep,” said Simelane-Zulu.