Shut down as Covid-19 spreads

Alison Mugwagwa, 4, washing her hands carefully at Sunny Side Montessori Pre-primary School in Claremont.

With the country on high alert due to the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, many businesses and institutions have closed and many events have either been postponed or cancelled.

This follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation on Sunday in which he announced heightenedmeasures, including the closure of schools since yesterday, Wednesday March 18, to curb the spread of Covid-19.

According to the latest Department of Health statistics, there are 116 confirmed cases of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the country, with 10 new cases reported since yesterday morning, including that of a 2-year-old boy who travelled to New Zealand.

The other new cases in the province are that of a 51-year-old man, who travelled to Egypt and Dubai; a 35-year-old woman, who travelled to Switzerland and Dubai; a 27-year-old woman, who travelled to Switzerland and Dubai; a 60-year-old man, who travelled to Portugal and the UK; a 51-year-old man, who travelled to the UK; a 54-year-old woman, who travelled to Portugal and the UK; a 26-year-old woman, who travelled to the UK and a 68-year-old man, with no international travel history.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 31.

Many higher education, basic and early childhood development centres are facing the impact of Covid-19 in their daily operations and the University of Cape Town (UCT) is one of many institutions which suspended their classes with immediate effect. UCT also has a staff member who tested positive for the coronavirus last weekend.

Elijah Moholola, UCT spokesperson, said the staff member was in isolation at home.

“The Western Cape Department of Health has begun the contact-tracing process and is contacting all those who were in close contact with the staff member,” he said.

UCT, in the context of the declaration of a national disaster, closed its residences.

Students had to vacate the residences within 72 hours from Monday March 16, he said.

Mr Moholola says UCT had agreed to cancel or postpone any UCT-related conferences and events until the end of June.

Various other educational institutes in the southern suburbs also had to make adjustments in light of this pandemic.

Principal Caitlin Munnik from Sunny Side Montessori Pre-primary School in Claremont said they found practical ways to demonstrate what the Covid-19 was to children and how to protect themselves.

“The parents were well aware of Covid-19 and were willing to participate with us and help to prevent further spreading,”she said.

Principal Nomthandazo Zweni from Holy Cross Primary School in District Six said this was the hardest thing that could happen to the school.

“Every teacher, staff, parents, pupil is very scared of this virus, and not sure when or where or how someone could be affected or infected.”

Ms Zweni said they had been preparing work plans for the extended school holidays and sent a letter to parents about safety measures at home.

Susan Keegan, business manager of Vine School in Lansdowne, said their teachers reinforced the Covid-19 message in an age-appropriate way.

“Pre-school teachers took the children to the bathrooms to practise washing their hands while counting or singing and they also developed signals to quietly remind one another when they touched their faces,” she said.

Ms Keegan said the school was engaging with Ambleside Schools International to develop lessons in line with their curriculum to be shared by video conferencing.

“We would prefer conferencing over other methods because of the highly relational approach we follow,” she said

PrincipalDawn Petersen of Golden Grove Primary School in Rondebosch said the process of explaining this to their pupils was not easy in the beginning as they could not understand why they could not shake hands or hug each other.

“We ensured that teachers encouraged their pupils to wash their hands effectively and speak about general healthy practices when it came to coughing and sneezing. Even though schools are closed, parents should not be taking their children to places of entertainment but should rather keep them home,” she said.

Mike van Haght, high school principal of Cannons Creek Independent School, said their teachers had all accepted the challenges associated with dealing with the coronavirus and were committed to ensuring that their pupils’ education was not compromised.

Mr Van Haght said their school had been using e-teaching strategies for a while but said this crisis would further launch them into this field.

The school also has their own online radio station which they would make use of.

“There will be teacher podcasts that can be accessed by any pupil at any location and orals may be done on air instead of infront of the class,” he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic. As at 4pm on Tuesday March 17, the WHO reported 184 975 confirmed cases in 159 countries with 7 529 deaths.

Mr Ramaphosa said an “extraordinary response” was needed to limit the impact of the virus.

These measures include:

Prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people.

Banning foreign nationals from high-risk countries, such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, America, the UK, and China, from visiting South Africa. Those who entered the country from mid-February must present themselves for testing.

Cancelling visas to visitors from those countries and revoking those already granted.

Discouraging all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus.

Cancelling mass celebrations of upcoming national days such as Human Rights Day and other large government events.

Closing 35 of the country’s 72 land ports and two of the eight sea ports.

Prohibiting all non-essential travel

Suspending visits to all correctional centres for 30 days.

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato announced on Monday that all portfolio, sub-council, and ward committee meetings would be cancelled until further notice.

“We will continue to assess thesituation and update this instructionas needed. We will be engaging with the speaker, Dirk Smit, and all political parties about how to deal with important matters such as the City’s budget, which is set to be tabled at the council meeting later this month.”

Mr Plato said the City would need to “adjust” its approach to public participation processes in the immediate future, as it would not be possible to hold public meetings. Residents should email or hand in written submissions on matters requiring public participation, he said.

And the public should, in general, rely on email, the phone or the City’s website for council matters instead of trying to do things in person.