What local governments can do to help fight coronavirus

Municipal IQ has suggested measures local governments can put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Municipal IQ has suggested measures local governments can put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Image: STR/AFP

As the first point of contact for people on the ground, there are several measures local governments can put into place to reduce the spread of coronavirus, said web-based data and intelligence service Municipal IQ.

Economist Karen Heese said municipalities could start by beefing up local clinics, which would most likely be hard hit once the virus hits strained areas.

“Municipal health services are likely to be pushed to — and beyond — capacity, and will need to co-ordinate with other spheres of government in working to keep communities well (for instance, ensuring access to TB and HIV treatment) to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Heese said.

“It would probably be wise to ramp up facilities in anticipation of an inevitable influx of patients over the next few months, as well as to ensure that medical staff are well supported for the likely pressure that they will face,” she said.

Heese said items they could consider stocking up on now included beds, painkillers and face masks.

Medics have emphasised that hygiene is integral in preventing the spread of the virus.

Heese said it was time for municipalities to ensure water was readily available to all.

“It is imperative that every effort is made to supply households with continuous access to potable water to ensure all South Africans can clean their hands and contain the spread of Covid-19 from interpersonal contact.”

As the first government point of contact, Heese said local governments held the responsibility of educating community members about the virus and quashing fake news about it.

She called on the government to urge communities to join the government-managed WhatsApp group, accessed by messaging  “HI” to 0600 123 456. Printing and distributing pamphlets with important information could also be helpful, Heese added.

In accordance with the call from President Cyril Ramaphosa, Heese called on local governments to cancel large events, including protest action.

Ramaphosa has limited the number of people at events to 100 to prevent further spread of the virus.

“Pre-planned events need to be stopped if organisers plan to continue regardless of the directive. And, of course, cancel all but the most essential of council and municipal meetings,” Heese said.

Municipal workers should cancel all non-essential travel and those who could work from home should do so, she said.

As municipalities ensure the provision of essential services, Heese called on them to encourage the locals they served to engage with them through virtual services instead of coming to their offices.

Heese suggested call centres, WhatsApp groups, Twitter accounts and web-based inquiries.

“Where walk-in services are required, design spaces with queue arrangements that provide safe distances with regular cleaning protocols,” she suggested.

If people did come to the offices, the elderly and sick, who already face greater risk, should be served in haste. 

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