Entire townships in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng are to be moved to safe zones in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the National Department of Human Settlements, plans for mass evacuations are at an advanced stage to relocate tens of thousands of people across the four provinces.

It is a plan to de-congest extremely dense informal settlements to prevent infection rates. In the Western Cape alone, thousands of residents from two informal settlements in Khayelitsha are to be temporarily removed.

The communities of Taiwan as well as eNkanini informal settlements have been notified of the plans to have them evacuated from their homes.

According to National Department of Human Settlements spokesperson, McIntosh Polela, these plans were already at an advanced stage.

“While this is urgent, it is also an initiative that requires a sensitive approach.”

While he could not confirm the number of people who would be removed from their homes, he said consultations would need to take place as many have historically refused to leave places common to them.

“Historically, our communities have resisted being moved. As such, we are careful that they are consulted and assured that they are going to be moved not far from the current place of their residence. We also cannot communicate some aspects of this initiative because of the ongoing consultations,” he said.

“Several communities in four provinces have been identified for the temporary relocations. The measure is aimed at mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The department of human settlements is however not giving out the names of the identified communities, “because we do not want to cause unnecessary panic. We recognise that moving people from their homes can be stressful, hence we will allow for consultations to take place before giving this information publicly,” added Polela.

Land parcels have been transferred from the Department of Public Works and other state entities.

The evacuation plans come as the Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize announced that the number of Covid-19 deaths had risen to nine with 1505 infections countrywide. Two of the nine deaths were still being verified.

Latest coronavirus news update as at 06h00 on 2020-04-05

South Africa now has 1585 cases of coronavirus infections, and nine confirmed deaths, health minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement on Saturday.

53 937 tests have been done.

Gauteng has 693 cases, most of all provinces, followed by the Western Cape with 433 cases and KwaZulu-Natal with 232.

Of the KZN cases, 11 and three deaths are linked to the St Augustine’s Hospital; these are patients, health workers and staff members.

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