- The Breede Valley Municipality is mourning the death of 29 people from Covid-19.
- Simple acts of kindness have turned out to be dangerous, as sharing food was cited as one cause of contracting the virus.
- The municipality is imploring people to follow Covid-19 safety protocols.
The simple, kind act of sharing food with a workmate could turn out to be the pathway to Covid-19, the Breede Valley Municipality’s disaster management director has found.
For Seon Swartz, the shadow of death with Covid-19 has passed through the valley 29 times in the past eight weeks, as they mourn the number of people who have died from the coronavirus.
The provincial health department raised the alarm in April, saying that the region, known for its picture-perfect fruit farms and a world-famous school for the blind in Worcester, was in the grip of a Covid-19 outbreak.
Swartz said the numbers increased in spite of all of the protocols put in place at factories and workplaces.
He said some of the businesses even went way beyond the basic measures of sanitiser, masks and social distancing, adding extra precautions.
However, it was hard-to-break human habits that turned out to be the greatest threat to the valley’s residents.
Swartz said one case was traced to a person who had shared food from the same pot as a group of people sitting around together to eat. One person had the virus, and the others contracted it too from being in such close proximity.
The provincial department’s head of health Dr Keith Cloete has repeatedly warned that when people let their guard down, that is when they are at their most vulnerable to contracting the virus. He noted that nursing staff are meticulous while on duty, but it is during their breaks that they let their guard down by taking off masks, or sitting close to each other.
As schools plan to welcome back Grade 10 and 11 pupils from Monday, everybody involved in the fight against the virus is advocating the same thing: keep your distance, wear a mask, wash your hands and sanitise.
But for Swartz, this message is not getting through to everybody, and it is also not always possible for people living in densely populated areas to follow through on this.
Breede Valley Municipality mayor Antoinette Steyn broke the news to the community on Facebook on Monday.
Announcement on the Covid-19 death toll in the Breed Valley Municipality (BVM Facebook)
Swartz said the 29 people did not die on the same day – but over the past eight weeks.
He said factories and industries in the region had been inspected, and many were even found to have exceeded the recommended requirements regarding working safely during Covid-19.
But there were still positive cases among some workers. Cases were confirmed at a chicken processing factory, and fruit factories.
They traced the sources of these cases back to a community.
Asked to be more specific about “the community”, he named blocks of flats and informal settlements within the municipality’s jurisdiction, and an apparent resistance to following the basic recommendations to avoid contracting Covid-19. Catching a bus after testing positive for the virus was also a red flag.
He said it was a terrible time in the Breede Valley, but also frustrating.
“People don’t want to listen,” he said. “It’s our biggest challenge.”
He stressed that people should maintain a 1.5m distance from others; that they wear masks and that they wash their hands and sanitise their hands.
He also added that people who lived in flats should not touch hand rails (or anything) as they use flights of stairs to get to their homes.
He urged people to also sanitise thoroughly if they have had to travel in a bus or a taxi, because some of these forms of public transport have been found to only sanitise their vehicles once a day.