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Heidedal in Mangaung Metro has been officially declared a coronavirus hotspot after a suspect who was supposed to be in isolation attended a funeral of someone who had died of COVID-19.

In a written response to questions from The Free Stater, provincial health department spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said schools in the area are being closely monitored after it emerged that some teachers had attended the funeral.

“Heidedal has become a hotspot after a COVID-19 funeral where there was also a positive case,” said Mvambi.

“The person was supposed to be in isolation but opted to attend the funeral,” he added.

Some of the teachers who attended the funeral are believed to have contracted the acute respiratory disease and infected others resulting in family clusters spreading the disease to other parts of the area.

Mvambi said the situation had been worsened by people failing to comply with COVID-19 protocols as well as ignorance of the disease.

He said the proliferation of drugs in the area and the numerous shebeens where people share cigarettes and drinks and hardly practised social distancing posed a great danger.

“When a place is declared a hotspot we activate our screening teams,” Mvambi said.

“Currently, we are visiting hotspot areas and meeting with the leadership of the particular wards . . . to address the challenges and come up with resolutions from the stakeholders.”

Apart from heidedal, other areas in Bloemfontein that have been identified as high risk due to rapid transmission include Universitas, Rocklands, Pellissier, Bergman and Hillside View.

In Naledi, which includes the towns of Dewetsdorp, Wepener and Van Stadensrus, some of the high-risk areas are New Location, Riverside, Kanana, Metampelong, Thapelong and schools in general.

The three towns, according to Mvambi, had zero infections for the longest time since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

He said besides Mangaung Metro, there has also been a rise in daily cases in Lejweleputswa district, which covers the Goldfields area.

“Mangaung has experienced an increase in the number of daily COVID-19 infections that happened at funerals which then affect schools and households,” Mvambi said.

“Some of these are triggered by unprotected interactions in public transport such as taxis and buses. Some people put on a mask as an entry compliance measure but take it off as soon as they get in.”

Welkom, Matjhabeng municipality as well as Dealesville and Hertzogville in Tokologo municipality are said to have high mobility of persons from different parts of the country and are serving as sources of local and interprovincial transmissions.

“In Lejweleputswa district, the towns of Welkom, Hertzogville and Dealesville are the high transmitters of daily cases,” Mvambi said.

“The two towns of Dealesville and Hertzogville are interprovincial towns bordering the North West province and there’s a high mobility of people in these towns and across the border,” he pointed out.

The Free State lies at the heart of South Africa with five national key roads, namely the N1, N3, N5, N6 and N8.

It is surrounded by six other provinces: the North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape as well as the Kingdom of Lesotho.

“The travellers criss-cross the country and the Kingdom of Lesotho through the Free State province and inadvertently interact with locals through variable means such as in parties, taverns, night clubs, funerals, family gatherings, churches, schools and many other socio-economic places of interaction,” Mvambi said.

“The province has been embarking on various community engagement platforms to increase awareness about the dangers of increasing infections since we got into Level 1 of the Lockdown regulations . . .

“The department has observed that there’s indifference amongst the public towards full adherence to health advice on prevention.

“Some people use masks incorrectly, some don’t use them at all and the risk of exposure is high.”

The provincial health spokesperson said the department is also aware that there are many asymptomatic people who may unknowingly infect other unprotected people, hence it is important for everyone to put on a mask when interacting in public.

To date, the Free State has recorded 55 843 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 41 218 recoveries or 74 percent.

About 1 479 deaths have been reported in the province.

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