The communities of Tzaneen and surrounding areas have launched into an unfounded spiral of panic after a news report surfaced on Wednesday, 3rd of June, that a nursing sister at the state hospital had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

Bulletin tried throughout the day to gain clarity on the matter from the Limpopo Health department and eventually managed to speak to the national spokesperson for the department of Health, Popo Maja. Initially, he was unable to respond as he was in the middle of a Zoom conference, but when he finally managed a response he said “we are not allowed to comment on individual cases. We could be sued for violating the privacy and dignity of citizens.”

Maja managed to reach Limpopo Health’s spokesperson who then contacted Bulletin to respond to our initial inquiry we sent to his office. He noted bad cellphone reception as the reason for his silence on the matter. Eventually we obtained clarity.

A nursing sister at Van Velden hospital in Tzaneen has tested positive for Covid-19 this week after she had a private test done at a lab in town. Her test result came through on Monday morning and upon receipt of her positive diagnosis, she took the correct measures in immediately self-quarantining and informing the provincial health department.

According to Niel Shikwambane, the spokesperson for the Limpopo Department of Health, the calls for the hospital to be closed because of the positive diagnosis is unfounded and irrational. He told Bulletin in a telephonic interview that all the department’s hospitals undergo rigorous disinfecting daily and the nurse in question is currently in self-isolation.

The state operated Van Velden hospital situated in Third Avenue. Photo: Roelof de Jonge

“Can you imagine what would happen if we were to close every hospital around the country each time one staff member tested positive for the virus? We would have a very dire situation as we enter the winter months and people start contracting other illnesses like the seasonal flu, with no medical facilities to assist them,” Shikwambane said. “Over 60 people, who came into close contact with the nurse, have been identified , tested and quarantined. That includes family members and her colleagues who work with her at the hospital. We are waiting for their results,” he added.

This morning, the 4th of June, a very irresponsible rumour started over the social media platform, WhatsApp, urging residents to avoid shopping at the very popular OK Sugarloaf store situated across the road from the hospital for fear of being infected. This is in itself an absolutely ludicrous notion and points to the panic stricken, uninformed and the dangers associated with spreading their broadcast messages. The management of both the OK Sugar stores in Tzaneen have insured that their stores comply with all legislation and have taken measures far beyond the required standards to secure the safety of their staff and clientele.



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