Presidential Coordinating Council aligns national response to COVID-19

Saturday, April 4, 2020

On day 9 of the 21-day nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the Coronavirus, the three spheres of government met to align the country’s response the pandemic.

The Presidential Coordinating Council (PCC) meeting, convened by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday, assessed progress and challenges on the implementation of the lockdown.

The virtual meeting also kick-started engagements between national and provincial governments towards an economic recovery strategy.

Co-chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza, the PCC is composed of Ministers, the Premiers of all nine provinces, as well as the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

At Saturday’s meeting, the committee received a report from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints).

Adherence to the national lockdown regulations, ongoing contact tracing, accommodation requirements, including identified quarantine sites and the roll out of the mass community testing programme, were some of the issues the report touched on.

The meeting heard that 5 400 field workers, to date, have been trained and have already been deployed to various areas across the country to test communities for the virus.

Other field workers are still to undergo training.

In addition, priority districts, as well as 993 wards, have been identified. These comprise the most vulnerable and at risk communities as well as areas with high rates of infection.

Ramping up testing

Provinces are working with the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) to identify testing sites, which will include both fixed and mobile test facilities.

Through the COVID-19 Data Management Centre, government is receiving early warning of potential clusters of infections and thus deploying pre-emptive targeted testing in identified areas.

It further receives daily estimates on infections, assesses local healthcare capacity and the efficacy of the lockdown.

Medical supplies

The PCC further considered the security of supply of essential medical supplies, including regulations that have been established to restrict exports of essential medical goods.

The Presidency said government is ramping up efforts to build-up local manufacturing capacity. It is also assessing the capacity of State Owned Entities to produce essential supplies.

The PCC acknowledged the work done by the Department of Water and Sanitation to increase access to water through the delivery of water tanks and tankers across the country.

To date, more than 6 000 tanks and 723 tankers have been delivered to various communities.

It is expected that this programme will be significantly escalated in the coming days and weeks, and further maintained when the pandemic has passed.

Delivering their provincial reports, the Premiers stressed the need for greater coordination and communication around the National State of Disaster regulations across all levels of government.

The Premiers reaffirmed the regulations, as gazetted as binding across all provinces.

Clarification of amendments

The PCC appreciated the clarity provided on the recent amendments to the lockdown regulations relating to informal traders and public transport, particularly minibus taxis.

Earlier this week, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula capped taxi loading capacity to 70% of the vehicle’s loading capacity.

The Minister, who had initially agreed for taxis to load 100% capacity - provided they provide passengers with masks, rescinded the decision with immediate effect on Wednesday night.

The decision to rescind follows concerns raised about the 100% loading capacity going against the call for social distancing.

During the meeting, SALGA confirmed the readiness of municipalities to assist in the issuing of permits to informal traders and spaza shop owners.

In addition, municipalities have also committed to assist and handover some of their facilities for isolation and quarantine.

Meanwhile President Ramaphosa commended national, provincial and local government on their efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

The President thanked them for their concerted measures to provide relief to the most vulnerable communities, informal sector workers and indigent households during this period.

While appreciating the hardship and inconvenience the national lockdown has caused, the President reasserted that it has been countries that have imposed restrictions on movement and gatherings, that have managed to flatten the curve of the virus.

The President urged government and society at large to build on the tremendous impetus provided by the need to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic to rethink how governments, businesses and communities function and relate to each other.

“The Coronavirus changes everything,” President Ramaphosa said.

The PCC will be meeting frequently to ensure alignment on the national response to the coronavirus pandemic. – SAnews.gov.za

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