Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has held high-level talks with the police as paramedics have again come under attack.
On Wednesday, he announced an increase of 22 more cases across the Western Cape, raising the total from 348 to 370 as of 1 April.
Four people who contracted the coronavirus are in intensive care in the province, while a further dozen are being treated at various hospitals.
Winde said: “Our healthcare workers and frontline staff must be kept safe. Over the past week, we have continued to see a number of attacks on our Emergency Medical Services [EMS] officials and vehicles.”
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Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo added: “I strongly condemn the senseless attacks on our Emergency Medical Service officials and vehicles.
“It is important for our people to realise that the safety of our communities is inextricably linked to the safety of health workers. It is sad that often these attacks take place in extremely vulnerable communities where emergency services are most needed.
“Currently, we are facing challenging service pressures with the Covid-19 pandemic in our country. This is a period when Emergency Medical Services will be in demand at a community level, even more so in the public health system.
“I urge all residents to protect EMS personnel while they are rendering this crucial service and should they witness any attacks, to report these to the police immediately,” Mbombo said.
Winde and his provincial cabinet were briefed on Wednesday the police’s top brass in the Western Cape on their operations, where they requested clarity on the police’s interpretation of some of the regulations.
The City of Cape Town’s safety and security head, JP Smith, has asked that the City be allowed to train police-vetted neighbourhood watches (NHWs) to join the fight against Covid-19, especially those officially accredited by the Western Cape Department of Community Safety.
“These NHWs would also be able to assist as credible messengers to encourage communities to comply with the regulations and stay indoors … it has become clear that we do not have nearly enough enforcement resources to achieve this without the help of civil society.”
This week, Smith said the NHWs could simultaneously continue to serve as the police and their communities’ eyes and ears – the traditional role played by neighbourhood watches around the world.
“We have already seen criminals changing their modus operandi to take advantage of the lockdown,” he added, saying “thousands of well-trained NHWs” were waiting to offer assistance.
Winde said his cabinet had also raised issues of police brutality.
“Police brutality of any form should not be tolerated and we call on all members of the community who have experienced violence at the hands of police officers to report these to the IPID,” he added.
Khayelitsha plateaued – still registering just one case – while three more patients, who had unidentified addresses, were in state care.
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The number of cases across the Western Cape, outside Cape Town, was up by six cases, Winde said.
“Our contact tracing teams are continuing to work to quickly identify and isolate close contacts in all instances of a positive case being identified.
“We currently have 20 people whom we have placed in isolation facilities, where they are receiving appropriate care,” Winde added.
“We acknowledge that for some, self-isolation will not always be possible and we are working to identify additional facilities to be used as quarantine and isolation sites across the province.
“Our aim is to provide appropriate medical care to those who are diagnosed with Covid-19 no matter where in the province they are.”