South African National Defense Force military health practitioners gets their temparatures measured as they arrive at in Port Elizabeth, July 5 2020. Picture: MICHAEL SHEEHAN/ AFP
South African National Defense Force military health practitioners gets their temparatures measured as they arrive at in Port Elizabeth, July 5 2020. Picture: MICHAEL SHEEHAN/ AFP

Dozens of military medics were deployed on Sunday to help combat the coronavirus pandemic in the Eastern Cape, SA’s third most affected province, where there has been a surge in infections.

The deployment comes as SA recorded 8,773 new  Covid-19 cases, taking the cumulative infections to  196,750.

Forty-seven defence force medical personnel landed in Port Elizabeth to help shore up the health service, which is buckling under a rising number of cases.

“The province is not coping. They have personnel and equipment problems,” defence force spokesperson Thabo Sello said. “The situation in the Eastern Cape is really bad with infections increasing and spreading rapidly,” he said. The province accounts for more than 18% of national infections.

The military teams include doctors, nurses, health technicians and clinical support staff.

Sello said the province, which is one of the poorest in the country, was the first to request military assistance to help fight the coronavirus.

“When the nation calls us, we have to respond, and respond quickly,” said the military medical services chief, Lt Gen Zola Dabula, at a ceremony welcoming the team.

He expressed concern that people were not taking the pandemic seriously. “So our duty as the army medical personnel is not only to treat people but also to educate them about this virus,” he said.

The province already has some of the more than 200 Cuban medical personnel who arrived in SA in June. The Eastern Cape is one of the country’s coronavirus hot spots after Gauteng, with the Western Cape still the epicentre.

SA has imposed some of the strictest stay-at-home measures in the world since March 27 in a bid to limit the spread of Covid-19. Still, the number of infections is rising daily by the thousands as the lockdown rules are gradually eased.

AFP

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