Picture: 123RF/ADZIC NATASA
Picture: 123RF/ADZIC NATASA

The government has identified 37 state-owned properties across the country that will be utilised as quarantine sites in it battles to curb the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

The virus has rattled the global economy with the panic around Covid-19 seeing stocks plummet. The virus has rapidly spread to 157 countries. The government declared national state of disaster on Sunday as it moves to contain the pandemic.

Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia De Lille told a news conference on Thursday that 37 quarantine sites have been identified across the country, and that inter-departmental teams are travelling around the country to assess the properties, and she is consulting with health minister Zweli Mkhize.

De Lille also said the government has reached out to the private sector to possibly make more properties available for quarantine purposes. “We will inform the public as these building become available,” she said.

The government will also tighten border control to ensure that everyone who comes in to the country is properly screened. De Lille said emergency procurement procedures are in place to erect and repair the border fences, east and west of the Beitbridge border post with Zimbabwe. 

“Due to this being an emergency, my department has instructed the contractor to substantially increase the number of teams deployed and the rate of delivery ten-fold,” she said.

The project will cost approximately R37m. De Lille said all 40km of fence will be finished within one month and local labour will be sourced by the contractor.

“To further expedite this process, the department of public works and infrastructure has identified a project manager who will be deployed to supervise the project and ensure that all aspects run smoothly. Weekly payments will be made to the contractor for work completed, as certified by the project manager.”

The minister was at pains to emphasise that the move cannot be seen as xenophobic, saying that it is necessary to contain the spread of the pandemic.

“This is to ensure that no undocumented or infected persons cross into the country — and vice versa. This is in line with one of the measures announced by the president in that SA’s borders and ports are to be secured with immediate effect,” she said.

De Lille also raised concern that some government suppliers are  inflating their prices to take advantage of the crisis brought by the pandemic. “We hear that hand sanitiser that costs R9 to produce is now sold to government for as much as R75. We will be looking into this.” 

phakathib@businesslive.co.za