Cape Town – Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the Covid-19 storm that South Africans have been warned about is about to arrive and signalled the reality some may not bury their loved ones.
Delivering his executive statement in the National Assembly, Mkhize said the country was experiencing a surge in coronavirus infections.
“The storm that we have consistently warned South Africans about is now arriving,” he said.
Mkhize said the pandemic was no longer about announcing confirmed numbers.
“We are now at a point where it’s our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, close friends, and comrades that are infected. As a country, and for the world at large, we are now in this reality where we must live with knowing that some of us cannot even bury our loved ones because of restrictions or even because we ourselves have been exposed.”
Mkhize urged all as they battled the pandemic to change their behaviour and observe all measures announced to contain the spread of the virus.
He said the nation had every reason to be united against Covid-19.
“We dare not be divided. As the government, we said we cannot fight the Covid-19 enemy alone. We need all political parties, social partners, and every citizen to come on board,” he said via a virtual platform.
“The delay in the spread allowed us to achieve what we could not have achieved as a country had we continued along the normal course.”
Tests conducted showed the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Gauteng accounted for 82% of cases up to July 6.
“The overall percentage testing positive was 11.8%,” he said.
As of Tuesday, there were 10 144 new cases bringing confirmed cases to 215 855, and 48% of the confirmed cases had recovered, bringing the total to 103 934. Mkhize said there were 3 470 confirmed deaths.
“We, however, expect Gauteng to have the highest number of confirmed cases, thus making it the epicenter,” he said.
He also said 139 quarantine facilities with 12 532 patients were activated across the country as of Monday. More than 20 million people were screened and 302 713 were referred for testing.
Mkhize revealed that 4 821 health-care workers were reported to have been infected with the coronavirus as of June 30.
“The Western Cape continues to account for the majority (68%) of infected health-care workers, with 3 285 infections as of June 29. The leading numbers of infections are among nurses, with 2 473 infections, followed by other health professionals, including community health workers, reporting 1 971 and doctors recording 377.”
Mkhize said the Solidarity Fund had indicated its willingness to support the immediate distribution of personal protection equipment (PPE) in its possession to various provinces.
“This will greatly assist us in closing gaps in provinces where there are stockouts on some PPE items.”
He, however, said they had sufficient PPE stock available to meet the requirements of front-line health-care workers.
“We endeavour to ensure that the appropriate PPE is made available to protect front-line health-care workers from getting infected by the coronavirus,” Mkhize said.
Mkhize said since the last scientific modelling results in May, the modelling had been updated to project bed capacity, which was still expected to be breached.
“Bed capacity is expected to be breached in the next four weeks.”
Mkhize said his department had developed, and was implementing, a surge strategy in anticipation of the peak.
“This will ensure increased capacity for Covid-19 while at the same time continuing to deliver other health services to the health-care users.
“During this process the department re-purposed a total of 27 467 beds for Covid-19, which has increased to 40 309 as the provinces started to experience sudden increases in the number of cases.”
Responding to the speech, DA MP Siviwe Gwarube said the government’s strategy to fight the pandemic should be grounded in concrete plans, which would force the curve of the infections down.
“This begins with proper resourcing of the health responses in order to ensure that provinces are ready to handle the rising numbers of infections,” Gwarube said.
She said the government should place the Eastern Cape Health Department under administration.
EFF MP Omphi Maotwe said the pandemic had “exposed the country to the type of leadership in the government”. She said although infections were averaging 10 000 a day, the government still claimed the peak had not been reached.