Patricia de Lille. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Patricia de Lille. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

The private sector has moved in to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, offering properties across the country such as hotels, holiday homes and hospitals for use as quarantine sites, public works and  infrastructure minister Patricia De Lille said on Wednesday.

De Lille told the media that the government is assessing the sites that have been offered as it battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Fear of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact has whipsawed stock markets and rattled the global economy. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown from midnight on Thursday in a bid to slow its spread.

De Lille said her department’s officials are working around the clock with the health department to secure more sites for quarantine.

“To date, the department of public works has mapped properties across all provinces in all 44 districts and eight metros. The work to identify more sites is ongoing. Currently, the list we have ready for assessment with the department of health has 52 properties of which 31 are under the custodianship of [public works]. Most of these are state-owned sites.”

Some of the sites identified under state ownership are offices, houses and multipurpose centres.

“At this time I want to thank the private sector for its willingness to come on board and offer properties as quarantine sites ... the response has been overwhelming and, indeed, we are grateful for the generosity and solidarity being displayed by the private sector,” the minister said.

So far, a total of 16,373 beds can be accommodated in the potential sites. These are a combination of government and private-sector facilities. De Lille said her department is working with the health officials, who ultimately have to sign off on whether the facility complies with quarantine requirements.

She said a 40km stretch of the Beitbridge border’s fence is being replaced to stop the spread of the virus between Zimbabwe and SA. “The teams are busy with site clearance for the new fence alignment; the work for the fence posts, along with the concrete works, will commence on March 26 2020.” The project will cost about R37m.

De Lille previously emphasised that the move cannot be seen as xenophobic, saying it is necessary to contain the spread of the pandemic. “It is to ensure that no undocumented or infected people 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.” 

phakathib@businesslive.co.za