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LUCAS LEDWABA

THE country’s six metros go into the alert level-3 of the covid-19 lockdown next week still faced with the threat of a rising rate of infections of the disease which has already killed 429 people.

President Cyril Ramaphosa named the City of Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City and City of Cape Town metros as coronavirus hotspots when announcing cabinet’s decision to downgrade from alert level 4.

The metros are the country’s major economic hubs with dense populations and their performance in handling the spread of the virus may have an impact on the economy which has already taken a battering from the two month lockdown.

Furthermore, the metros are likely to be the hardest hit as a result of a major decline in generation of revenue caused by the lockdown. The SA Local Government Association has projected a R14 billion revenue loss by municipalities during this period.

Ramaphosa said as a way of combating the virus during the alert level 3 the government “will assign a full-time team of experienced personnel to each hotspot.”

He said the team will include epidemiologists, family practitioners, nurses, community health workers, public health experts and emergency medical services, to be supported by Cuban experts.

“We will link each hotspot to testing services, isolation facilities, quarantine facilities, treatment, hospital beds and contact tracing,” he said.

He warned that should it be necessary, any part of the country could be returned to alert levels 4 or 5 if the spread of infection is not contained despite the interventions and that there is a risk of health facilities being overwhelmed.

“In time, however, through our efforts, it will be possible to place areas where infections are low on levels 2 or 1,” he said.

Ramaphosa said a hotspot is an area that has more than 5 infected people per every 100,000 people or where new infections are increasing at a fast pace.

He said the other areas that are hotspots are West Coast, Overberg and Cape Winelands district municipalities in the Western Cape, Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape, and iLembe district in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We are particularly concerned about the situation in the city of Cape Town and in the Western Cape generally, which now has more than half the total infections in the country,” he said, adding that they are attending to this as a matter of urgency.

He said the list of hotspot areas will be reviewed every two weeks depending on the progression of the virus.

Ramaphosa has extended a R20 billion stimulus package to municipalities for the provision of emergency water supply, increased sanitisation of public transport and facilities and providing food and shelter for the homeless during the COVID-19 crisis.

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