Covid-19: Limpopo government to engage taxi industry over concerns ranks may become super-spreaders

The Outsurance team, trained by Clinix Health group, disinfect taxis at the Esangweni taxi rank in Gauteng, to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

PHOTO: Chanté Schatz, News24

  • There are fears that taxi ranks in Limpopo may become Covid-19 super-spreaders following the death and infection of several taxi drivers and owners in the region.
  • Transport MEC Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya is set to talk with stakeholders over the public’s concern and assist with the necessary resources to help curb the spread of the virus.
  • Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba indicated that in 2020, Limpopo recorded an average of 20 new cases a day – so far in 2021, the province had seen more than 1 500 new cases a day.

Limpopo Transport and Community Safety MEC Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya will engage the taxi industry over concerns that ranks have become Covid-19 super-spreaders, as new infections in the province continue to rise with private health facilities now fully occupied.

Lerule-Ramakhanya has targeted four hotspot areas – Thulamela, Polokwane, Thabazimbi and Bela-Bela – where the active case index has increased significantly.

The MEC’s spokesperson, Matome Moremi-Taueatsoala, said chemical products such as hand sanitisers will be provided to taxi associations and municipalities.

Moremi-Taueatsoala said:

These are areas where there are red alerts and the MEC will start the programme at Thulamela next Tuesday. Tzaneen, Fetakgomo and Thabazimbi, which are mining areas, have also been identified.

This comes after public concern that taxi ranks were super-spreaders following reports that four taxi owners died of Covid-19 complications, and eight taxi drivers at the Polokwane rank tested positive.

Polokwane Taxi Association spokesperson Moshite Lekganyane, however, did not agree that taxi ranks were super-spreaders.

He said taxi owners were hardly at taxi ranks and the association was adhering to health protocols to avoid the spread of Covid-19.

‘Letting their guard down’

“People are just blowing this [super-spreader] thing out of proportion,” Lekganyane said.

There are renewed fears that Covid-19 has gripped Limpopo as the number of new infections and related deaths continue to rise, with private hospitals in the province now fully occupied.

In a snap survey by News24, members of the public – who were largely blamed by health authorities for the second wave of the pandemic for “letting their guard down” – expressed concern about the surge in Covid-19 new infections and deaths.

By Wednesday night, the province recorded 41 847 total cases, of which 11 620 were active. The province has recorded 702 deaths and 29 525 recoveries.

Numbers have significantly increased in regions like Vhembe and Mopani, which initially recorded the lowest cases. The Capricorn and Waterberg regions remain the hotspots in the province.

Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba has since indicated that the province had recorded an average of 20 cases a day at some stage last year, but the number had significantly increased to more than 1 500 a day in 2021.

She also indicated that the active case index risk per hundred was 29 in Polokwane, 20 in Lephalale, 20.9 in Thabazimbi and 20.8 in Bela-Bela.

‘Unprecedented demand’ in hospitals

The increase in infections has resulted in the Pholoso Hospital in Polokwane, owned by the Netcare Group, establishing a field hospital as the facility was “experiencing an unprecedented demand for patients requiring hospitalisation”.

The group’s CEO Dr Richard Friedland said:

Limpopo is currently experiencing an unprecedented demand in hospitalisation, with Netcare’s facility in Polokwane – Netcare Pholoso Hospital – more than 100% occupied.

Friedland said the field hospital can accommodate up to 80 patients and has the approval of Ramathuba.

Ramathuba said the authorities will support the private establishment because the pandemic was currently hitting private facilities hard.

“We know most of them would have been licensed for 200 beds, so we are saying to them that because of the pandemic we can still license them for [100 more] beds.

“That work, we have seen it happening in Pholoso and we are going to see it happening at [the] other two [private] hospitals. If we do that, we will be able to be on top of our game and be able to fight the pandemic,” Ramathuba said.

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