On Sunday, 8 March 2020 we all watched President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing critical measures that the nation should take in order to contain this highly infectious virus and minimise its spread.
As a municipality we accept and welcome the wisdom of the President, more particularly the declaration of a national disaster in terms of the National Disaster Management Act. This was obviously a tough but highly necessary decision.
In the country there are currently 116 confirmed cases of Corona Virus and it is clear that the virus will continue to spread but how its spreads and the amount of its devastation will be determined by the actions that we all take. Whilst there is no confirmed case in the Eastern Cape and in Buffalo City, we cannot sit comfortably because we know that our country is highly interconnected and there is movement within and across provincial and municipal boundaries daily. This means that we should be highly prepared for any eventuality and ensure that we work together to contain it.
We are also encouraged by the decisive leadership shown by the Premier of the Province, Honourable Oscar Mabuyane, on Monday who indicated that he has established a Provincial Command Council. We will fully participate in this Command Council in order to ensure that all efforts of fighting this scourge are streamlined and that it receives regular and timely reports from the Municipality.
I have established a high-level committee in the municipality which will be constituted by members of the Mayoral Committee, the City Manager, all heads of directorates, labour unions and relevant officials. This committee will meet regularly to implement measures that are aimed at containing the virus within the municipality and across Buffalo City Metro. Already there are external and internal measures that we will be implementing as a municipality.
It is important to announce that all events and activities which are to have more than 100 people will be discouraged by the municipality. This therefore means that approval for sporting events and activities of a similar nature will not be granted.
We are trusting that event organisers and religious organisations will heed the call of the President and ensure that activities are contained during this period. We will consult with all organisations that use our municipal halls and facilities to ensure that they comply with the announcement by the President. In the event that this is not the case, the municipality will have no choice but to refuse granting the approval for the use of its facilities.
We urge funerals taking place this weekend to keep to the numbers that were pronounced by the President and in the cemeteries, we will ensure that this is adhered to. The Good Green Deeds Campaign that we normally run every Friday will be adjusted to ensure that it complies with the directive of the President.
We are pleading for cooperation from the retail sector, more particularly from restaurants and night clubs that usually have numbers more than 100 people at one time to consider suspending their operations or limiting numbers. Ebuhlanti will be closed in the immediate as we encourage and support minimal social interaction.
The safety of our residents and consumers is our primary priority. We will therefore avail hand sanitisers, masks and cloves to all frontline staff in the municipality in order to ensure safety in our frontline offices. We will ensure that all frontline offices are cleaned with disinfectants on a two-hourly basis.
We will ensure consistent provision of soap in our frontline offices and in all municipal toilets and we encourage residents to ensure that they make use of it. We will carefully monitor all the municipal offices that are responsible for daily interaction with the public such as licensing and bill payment offices to ensure that they do not become spaces for the spread of the virus. Basic hygiene will be encouraged all the time and we plead with all residents to work together in this regard.
We encourage people to pay their accounts online and on mobile in order to minimise physical contact with others.
We will ensure that awareness materials is displayed for members of the public in all strategic locations in the City and within the municipality advising the necessity for adherence to the protocols of COVID-19. We will continue to run awareness campaigns in our social media platforms, local community radio stations and other relevant media platforms.
Internally, we have taken the following decisions:
The municipality will set aside a budget for the purchasing of sanitisers, gloves, masks and soap for the frontline staff and other relevant employees. This will be through redirecting some of the funds that were intended for catering and refreshments. All of this will be coordinated by the Chief Financial Officer in order to minimise any possibility of misuse.
The Directorate of Corporate Services will work with the Health and Public Safety Directorate to ensure that health and safety officers and health inspectors continuously implement our measures and implement awareness campaigns for all employees.
We will suspend all non-essential meetings that are beyond 100 in order to comply with the instruction of the President. In addition to this, we will have suspended all non-essential and non-critical meetings inside or outside the municipality except on exceptional circumstances and those meetings will only be approved by the City Manager.
The Speaker will engage all councillors regarding the need to minimise the convening of council meetings and the attendance of communities in such meetings. A final decision in this regard will be communicated in due course. Part of what will be considered in these meetings is the nature of ward committee meetings and the manner in which IDP consultations will take place.
We have suspended all travel outside the municipality except on exceptional circumstances and those trips will only be approved by the City Manager. Travelling by municipal employees will only be within municipal boundaries. We are therefore encouraging our officials to utilise telephone conferencing and video conferencing.
Our Health and Safety Officers and Health Inspectors will conduct specific training to frontline staff and office cleaners in line with the precautionary measures issued by National Department of Health.
We will require disclosure on travel to high, medium and low risk countries and the necessary national protocols will be followed. Members of the public who visit our facilities such as the East London Zoo, the Aquarium, the Gonobie Resort and Kiwane Resort will have to sign a declaration form of their travel and health condition.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a municipality we are confident of the strength of humanity when acting in unison and we are therefore hopeful that the virus will be contained and the war against it will be won. This therefore calls for all of us to not panic and be considerate of others.
Fighting Covid-19 requires that we act as individuals, knowing that our actions or inactions will affect the level and extent of the spread and devastation of this virus. We are therefore discouraging the panicked buying of food and other supplies in the shops.
Remember in order for the Corona Virus to not spread, all other people must be able to maintain regular hygiene and ensure consistent cleanliness. Purchasing all sanitisers and soaps from shops prevents other people from having the ability to protect themselves from the virus and thus contain its spread.
Let us not panic but work together to fight this pandemic.
Remember always wash your hands like you have just pealed an onion.
Issued by the Executive Mayor of Buffalo City Metro