What life is like on the COVID-19 frontlines

Written by Dale Hes

Nompumelelo Ncube is one of our healthcare heroes working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight.

Ncube works as a communicable disease control and outbreak response co-ordinator for the Tshwane health district with the Gauteng department of health. This means that she is at the very heart of the country’s efforts to control the epidemic.

“We make sure that all the right systems are in place to respond to the virus, that health workers are correctly trained and that we are on the ground doing testing of patients and tracing of contacts,” says Ncube.

Long hours on the frontlines

Ncube has been working long hours, up to six days a week.

“It has been very draining but fulfilling at the same time. It is rewarding to be able to help  in curbing the increase of infections. It has also been very heart-warming to see the co-ordinated response from all sectors of healthcare and government, from emergency medical staff, to ward councillors and the outbreak response teams.”

She says that although the arrival of COVID-19 has been scary, she and her colleagues were prepared for it.

“Even when the virus first emerged in China, we were receiving training on how to handle it if it arrived here. So before the first cases came, we knew what to do and the processes to be followed. We had all the necessary protective equipment, training and information.

“COVID-19 has really taken me back to the basics of infection prevention and control prevention. It is the things that we speak about all the time, such as washing of hands, proper cough etiquette and social distancing. Now the rest of South Africa has been alerted to the importance of these basics.”

She says that seeing patients recover from the virus has been the best part of her job.

The importance of sticking to lockdown regulations

Around the world, social distancing (staying away from other people) has been recognised as one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus. It helps with lessening the strain on the healthcare system and prevents hospitals from being overcrowded with patients.

Ncube says that she was delighted that President Cyril Ramaphosa took such early action to prevent the virus from spreading.

“The enforcing of the lockdown at such an early stage was a brilliant move from the President. It is exactly what we need to prevent the spread of new infections.”

She says that although some communities may find social distancing difficult, everyone needs to try and play their part.

“Many of our communities are very sociable by nature, so that is a challenge. But staying at home is really the best way to prevent the spread. I encourage everyone to follow the lockdown regulations and to try social distancing, wash your hands and cough into your elbow or a tissue.”

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