1 April 2020 Media Release: Role of Garden Route District Municipality’s Environmental Health Practitioners during the COVID-19 Outbreak

Media Release: Role of Garden Route District Municipality’s Environmental Health Practitioners during the COVID-19 Outbreak

For Immediate Release
1 April 2020

During the past few weeks, Environmental Health Practitioners (EHP’s) of the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) have showed courage in the face of adversity, each playing a vital role to prevent and minimise the spread of COVID-19 in the district. At the beginning of March 2020, the Municipal Health Section of the GRDM’s Community Services launched a massive awareness campaign to educate the general public, not only about the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus disease, but most importantly on ways on how to minimize or prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as other matters on how to protect themselves and others.

As part of the campaign, more frequent inspections are conducted at premises to ensure that basic principles such as hand hygiene (hand washing with water and soap for 20 seconds and hand sanitizing or disinfection), cough etiquette, cleaning, sanitizing and or disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and social distancing are applied.  Other practices which are also promoted include adequate ventilation, the use of personal protective equipment by food handlers, cleaning and disinfection of transport vehicles and pest control, to name a few.

Yesterday, EHP’s in collaboration with the local municipalities in the Garden Route District, South African Police Services (SAPS) and local businesses played a vital role in protecting our community during the South African Social Security (SASSA) grant payouts. This was done by ensuring that social distancing and hand hygiene (where applicable) was practiced.  Personal hygiene practices were also promoted, especially within the public transport sector. Communities of the Garden Route can be assured that the GRDM Environmental Health Partitions will be visible until all SASSA grants have been paid.

Ongoing collaboration with the Western Cape Department of Health where Environmental Health Practitioners play an important role in the active tracing of contacts, meaning those who have been in close contact with a confirmed / positive COVID-19 case in the region, or to find out exactly where a person contracted the virus.  During the contact tracing process, EHP’s do backward tracing, back to the person where the infected person first came in contact with the virus and potentially caught the virus from. EHP’s address the importance of self isolation, self quarantine and waste management as practices used to curb the further spread of the disease.  “We also reassure those individuals who have been identified as confirmed COVID-19 cases and their contacts that any information obtained during investigation will be regarded as confidential,” said Mr Haemish Herwels, GRDM Chief: Municipal Health Services-Hessequa.

As it is enforced that all South Africans participate in the nationwide 21-day lockdown to stop the spread of the COVID -19 pandemic, EHP’s in the Garden Route District are visible daily on streets – “knowing that the only way we will win the fight against COVID-19 is to implement a ‘Whole of Society Approach’, meaning we all have to play our role,“ said Mr Herwels.

As the GRDM we would also like to extend a word of gratitude to our EHP soldiers out in the field, who leave their loved-ones and families behind, to join forces in leading the fight against the COVID-19 disease.