Democratic Alliance provincial Leader Jane Sithole recently said in a statement: “Mpumalanga is the only province where the number of infections either increases or reverts to a lesser number every day. For the last four weeks, official positive cases have been fluctuating between 20 and 23. This causes confusion and panic amongst the residents”
She also said that The MEC is also causing confusion and panic with the reported number of infections being erratic. The full statement is part of the article named: “NO New COVID-19 Positive in GMM while Inaccurate Covid-19 data may lead to a premature lifting of lockdown in Mpumalanga.”
In response to these statements (and a few others) by the Democratic Alliance, the Department of Health issued the following statement:
The Department notes the concerns raised by DA regarding the COVID-19 statistics in the Province. The Department would like to state that the MEC for Health is not misleading the people of Mpumalanga as alleged by the DA. The public should note that the data for COVID-19 changes from time to time informed daily by samples and results taken on suspected COVID-19 cases. The Department dismisses the allegations raised by the DA that the MEC is misleading the public on the COVID-19 statistics.
The MEC have no reason or intention to mislead the people of Mpumalanga, whom she serves diligently, and shall not deny anyone access to information on COVID-19 statistics. It is for these reasons that the MEC makes a concerted effort to inform the people of Mpumalanga by publishing daily statistics. The province always verifies the statistics sent.
The Minister for Health: Dr Zwelini Mkhize announces the national statistics, and thereafter the Minister send the details of the statistics to the provinces for the purposes of validation, contact tracing and linkage to care. As the province, we are responsible for the tracing our cases and their contacts. Therefore, upon this process, the province would pick misallocated cases and report these cases to the National Department of Health for correction. Then the Minister corrects the misallocated with the subsequent announcement.
The MEC requests the media, 013NEWS in particular, to verify information to get a balanced view before publishing a story. Otherwise the MEC would be left with no option but to report this to the Media Ombudsman because this may create public panic. (end)
The Bulletin notes with concern the last paragraph of the MEC’s statement. We have read the 013NEWS article and it is exactly the statement as received from the Democratic Alliance. This is very worrying that the MEC would threaten a newspaper so openly on a public platform as this statement was sent, and published, to several media houses.
It may be worthy to note that there are no responses on the Dept of Health’s twitter account to questions asked there. Especially the ones querying the figures correctness.
On Monday the dept published an infographic stating that GMM has two positive cases of COVID-19 (please remember that the one positive case recovered) only to withdraw that infographic on Tuesday morning and replacing it with one that says GMM has one case. On Tuesday night it was again replaced with one that says GMM has two cases.
How can we Keep the public informed if the information we receive is not reliable?