Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said that how the province managed its first Covid-19 cases in 2020 is exactly how they would have handled the situation if were to have occurred today.
The MEC and other health officials were conducting the weekly digicon reflecting on the past year since the first Covid-19 case was reported in the province. Mbombo was joined by head of Health, Dr Keith Cloete, and head of Emergency Medicine, Dr Wayne Smith, at the Disaster Management Centre in Cape Town which is situated at Tygerberg Hospital.
Mbombo explained a month prior to the first Covid-19 case in South Africa, she and Dr Cloete were exposed to information about coronavirus when they were attending a health conference in Thailand, which included professionals from countries already fighting Covid-19.
At the time when we came back we were already prepared, in the sense that when we had a press conference about our readiness, we already knew what needed to be done.
“On March 10, 2020 we were already planning to visit Disaster Management, noting before that there were about 32 cases of false alarms, where people said there was a Covid-19 case and everyone jumped up and down.
“So we said to the media, come to Tygerberg Hospital on the 11th so we could give everyone a look at our readiness, but unfortunately it changed completely, and instead of role-playing, it was a real case. Mbombo said since that moment “we have faced one of the most challenging years in our country’s history”.
She said it had been a period of great loss and heartbreak for many people across the province as 11 319 people had lost their lives to Covid-19, and122 of those who died were healthcare workers, who went bravely to the frontline to help save the lives of others.
“We remember each of these people today and commit to doing everything we can to continue saving lives in the year ahead. While this past year has brought about great pain and loss, it has also shown us what is possible when we work together, with courage and determination,” Mbombo said.
The MEC reflected on some of the challenges, recalling how the province had been dubbed “Cape Wuhan” and was blamed for a host of things, but added that despite all that “how we managed the first case, and the way we did it, is how we would manage it today”.
“I think what stood out, and what continues to stand out, is about us using scientific evidence to guide our health system and response, which we are still doing.
“We planned for the worst scenario,” she said. We’ve been through (a lot) but through all those journeys we were always together, up to the point that we have so many stories we could share. Mbombo also recalled how Dr Cloete, who started in April 2020 as HOD, was baptised by fire during the period where he was taking over from Dr Beth Engelbrecht.
“As the MEC was speaking all the memories, that I probably haven’t had for a while, came flooding back,” Dr Cloete said. I recall when Dr Engelbrecht was on leave for the weekend (and) my life changed completely on the 14th and 15th of March, two weeks before I became HOD.
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