Bitou Covid-19 Response Team Newsletter for week commencing May 18

THE purpose of this newsletter is to keep you updated with the latest locally pertinent information regarding the Covid-19 pandemic’s effect on our community as well as the activities of the Response Team to coordinate our local response to the threat.

Firstly, a huge thank you to our donors. We have received a total of R4,064,985 in donations, of which Bitou Municipality has contributed R200,000 towards the isolation and quarantine facilities; R1,050,000 for food parcels distributed over the Easter weekend, and an additional R600,000 that will be donated in the next couple of days to purchase nutritional porridge.
Our total expenditure thus far has been R2,499,102; R1 277 297 has been spent on food aid and the rest on medical and personal protective equipment and the isolation unit.
Unfortunately, our total number of positive cases in the Garden Route is increasing. It is vital for us to behave responsibly, so once again, please wear your cloth mask when you leave your home, wash and sanitise your hands regularly, practise social distancing, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, and cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow. If you feel unwell, please stay at home and contact your doctor telephonically.

Over the past three weeks, Hospice Plett Community Health Workers (CHWs) and professional nurses have been conducting door-to-door screening of community members in collaboration with the Department of Health. The entire population of Kranshoek and Wittedrift has been screened and the group is currently busy with screening in KwaNokuthula.
During this screening process community members are also screened for TB and the Hospice Plett CHWs provide household members with cloth masks provided by the Bitou Covid-19 Response Team, and education on how to care for and wear their masks.

We are currently setting up the first isolation unit at Piesang Valley Community Hall. This facility is for patients infected with the coronavirus who are unable to isolate at home. Bitou Municipality has been carrying out essential maintenance of the hall over the last two weeks.
Thank you to Jess Robinson, Dr Sian Hartshorne and Maggie Ubsdell, who have gone out of their way to assist Dr Nicky Whiteman in setting up the isolation facility. Thanks, too, to all community members who donated beds, linen, furniture and appliances.

The majority of our medical and personal protective equipment has arrived and is being safely stored in a fully alarmed storeroom. A team of volunteers is in charge of stock control and protocols are being set up for effective management of this stock.

Hospice Plett, together with Hilary Gray and Marline Louw from Knysna Sedgefield Hospice, are offering psycho-social palliative care training to a group of 15 psychologists, social workers and counsellors from May 18 in an effort to ensure patients and their families will be provided with psycho-social support during this pandemic.
A training course for staff who work in retirement villages is also being developed to ensure that our most vulnerable elderly will receive quality care during this time.
Hospice Plett continues to provide home-based palliative care to patients living with life-limiting illnesses and the necessary support to their families. Strict protocols, as well as a dedicated team with very limited contact with other health professionals and patient population groups, have been established to minimise the risk of exposing vulnerable patients to Covid-19.
The Hospice Plett Charity Shop, being the mainstay of Hospice income, started operating again on Tuesday May 5 and donations of gently-used goods are most welcome. For collection of goods, please contact Debbie Bruinders at or telephone 044 533 5616. Grateful thanks to the all the new volunteers from the Covid-19 Response Team for assisting in the Hospice shop during this period.

Marius Venter and Rob Bokelmann, together with the rest of the food aid volunteers, have been working tirelessly to supply the growing number of people in need with a consistent supply of food. They are currently managing to provide 70,000 meals a week through the soup kitchens and the distribution of JAM porridge and ePAP.
Bitou Municipality, along with a group of private funders organised by Tony Lubner, have secured sufficient funding to feed 10,000 people for the next couple of months. We are currently negotiating with the Click Foundation for additional funding.
The Click Foundation have already committed to supply Bitou with 33 tons of fortified maize meal. Thank you to Tony Lubner and Jock Kannemeyer for arranging for two 20-foot containers to be placed at Plett Methodist Church to store all the food which has been safely delivered.
Marius Venter has arranged for eight 5000-litre, well-labelled JoJo tanks to be placed at various points in the community to distribute F10 hand sanitiser. These will be installed during the next week. An enormous thank you to all the food aid volunteers. Your dedication does not go unnoticed.

We are setting up an additional branch of the Response Team’s social support. We feel that this is a perfect time to assist the community in any way we can, to grow their own food.
We are attaching a permaculture specialist to every Bitou ward who will work with a team of volunteers in identifying those members of the community who are already growing their own food.
The idea is to maximise production by identifying and working together to overcome obstacles. We are asking the community for donations of gardening equipment, seeds and compost to be dropped off with Mary-Anne Cunningham at the Native Roots Shelter in Marine Way, Plettenberg Bay.
Our fund will be buying seeds for donation and we are in the process of endeavouring to set-up a central composting site with the municipality. Please email if you would like to volunteer as a gardener.

Masks4All Plett & Beyond, run and coordinated by Stephen Ritky, has produced and distributed over 50,000 masks of which 44,000 have been given, at no cost, to the less financially-able people of Plett.
Donations and sales have generated R503,480 paid out to the local community teams and NGOs making masks.
The original goal set by the Bitou Covid-19 Response Team of 47,000 masks distributed within Bitou has been exceeded. Two of the sewing teams have swung over from “square” masks to the more complex and laborious “sculpted”, masks which are made for sale to the public. This will ensure ongoing income to the families working on the project, as well as making some funds available for other teams to make more free masks.
Masks4All Plett & Beyond will now aim for 47,000 FREE masks to Bitou - a totally achievable aim, seeing that 44,000 have already been distributed.

Those who have donated funds to the Bitou Covid-19 Response Fund and have not received an acknowledgement of their donation by May 22, should please email to notify Debbie Bruinders. To receive the 18A Tax Certificate, proof of payment of the donation as well as full name and physical address should be included.
The Bitou Covid-19 Response Team thanks the generous and caring Bitou residents for your support.
We are going to see a growing number of coronavirus cases in the next couple of weeks, however we feel that we have accomplished the task that we originally set out to achieve: ensuring that we have an adequate supply of medical equipment, medication and personal protective equipment, and generating a database of volunteers to assist the existing healthcare workers in Plett.
Our current focus is to ensure that our community do not go hungry and to slow the spread of the virus by distributing masks and educating our residents.