Concerns have been raised on how the Eastern Cape is dealing with the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases. The province recorded its first case on March 21 after a patient who had traveled to Germany tested positive.

To date, in just over a month, the province has now confirmed 480 cases.

This steep increase has raised concerns among many in the health fraternity. Earlier this week, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize criticised the province’s response to the pandemic.

During a visit to the province, Mkhize lambasted health officials for their slow progress in tracing those who came into contact with mourners who attended a funeral at KwaDwesi, Port Elizabeth, three weeks ago.

NMB provincial COVID-19 epicentre

The Nelson Mandela Bay is currently the epicentre of positive COVID-19 cases in the province with the main chain of transmission being at least two funerals that took place in Port Elizabeth about a month ago. The metro has recorded over 250 COVID-19 cases.

A District Health Plan for the period 2018/19- 2020/21 by the Eastern Cape Health Department highlights that access to health facilities remains a major challenge in the metro.

The provincial administration, led by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, is now shaking up its COVID-19 response.

One of the major measures undertaken by the administration is to improve health facilities.

The Cecilia Makhiwane Hospital, in East London, is now one of the identified quarantine facilities. The hospital is equipped to treat more than 100 patients.

Upgrades at 22 other health facilities will provide 2 000 extra beds.

Mabuyane has, however, acknowledged that the province still has a long way to go to improve its health system.

“Let’s invest in the public facility so that beyond this coronavirus we can still have the NHI programme coming up. These facilities will still be relevant for further utilisation the work that is being done works well with our thinking and development.” – Additional reporting Thabo Danials, Xolani Sitshinga