SA’s ‘Train of Hope’ fights COVID-19 in the countryside

South Africa’s “Trains of Hope” bring healthcare workers to hard-to-reach areas, deviating from routine healthcare to boost testing for the novel coronavirus.

IDUTYWA – Dozens of locals line up eagerly as the train heaves to a halt at a station in a remote rural region of South Africa’s coastal Eastern Cape province.

The so-called “Train of Hope” has come to provide COVID-19 screening in one of South Africa’s virus hotspots from aboard a specially equipped mobile clinic.

The Eastern Cape is South Africa’s third most affected province, accounting for 14-percent of coronavirus infections nationwide.

Since the first case was reported on March 5, Africa’s most industrialised country has recorded the continent’s highest number of cases, with more than 70, 000 infections and 1,568 deaths.

Previously operating as a general health services facility offering dentistry, eye checks and counselling services in more than 70 of South Africa’s rural communities, the state-funded train has been re-purposed as a locomotive of “hope” in South Africa’s fight against the coronavirus.

The train known in normal times as Phelophepa, which means “good, clean health” in the local Sotho and Tswana languages, criss-crosses the country nine months of the year.

“We have shelved the Phelophepa services, and we are now solely dealing with the issue of the COVID-19,” train manager Bheki Mendlula told AFP.

“I now suddenly realised that corona(virus) is real, and I think I should know my status, know if I am safe or not,” said Sinisipho Nxojelwa before getting tested. She was worried that her aunt, who is a nurse and lives with her family, might bring the infection home from work.

Health authorities have mobilised tens of thousands of volunteers to travel from village to town in search of COVID-19 cases.

– Coronavirus Hotline Number: 0800 029 999 from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday

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The NICD has another Clinician Hotline to improve #COVID19 communication and support for healthcare providers. The Clinician Hotline is 0800 11 1131, operating 24 hrs. The Public Hotline is 0800 029 999 also operating 24hrs.

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