Covid-19: 'We're in hard combat time': Mkhize

19 March 2020 - 14:23 By Qaanitah Hunter
There are now 150 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in SA, while the number of local transmissions of the coronavirus is rising, according to health department data.
There are now 150 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in SA, while the number of local transmissions of the coronavirus is rising, according to health department data.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sowetan

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Thursday night that the country was in a “battle” against the coronavirus. He said that previously, the country was looking at whether it was prepared and trying to look at the nature of the virus and its impact on the country.

He was speaking at a Q&A session with the SA African Medical Association.

But now, he said: “We've passed that point. We're now in battle. We have to make do with whatever we've got. It's rapidly spreading ... and we must mobilise our forces to target this. We're in hard combat time.”

However, he said that if the country was “focused and determined” then there could be an impact on reducing the number of cases and the numbers of fatalities.

“We don't want fatalities. We don't want a rapid spread,” he said.

On a slightly positive note, Mkhize reassured that those South Africans who were tested for the coronavirus are recovering well.

“We are pleased to also inform the public that we are now seeing recoveries of previously reported Covid-19 cases. We are in the process of conducting further confirmation tests and medical examinations then we formally inform the public on the numbers of recoveries. At this stage, most of the patients are recovering well.”

There are now 150 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in SA, while the number of local transmissions of the coronavirus is rising, according to health department data.

Announcing this number to the nation on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the increase — up 34 from Wednesday’s number — was “concerning because that already tells us if you extrapolate that it could start rising in greater numbers”.

He said the rise reinforced the government’s call for social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

Following the expansion of nationwide routine testing for SARS-CoV-2 in public and private laboratories, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, will start to function as a reference and surveillance laboratory for Covid-19.

This will include resolving unusual results and providing other laboratory functions. The NICD will also Test routine surveillance samples to monitor the spread of Covid-19 across SA.

The NICD said most of the new cases were recorded in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. One new case was reported in Mpumalanga.

There were also “cases” in the Free State, but the details would be announced on Friday once the patients had been informed, Mkhize said.

“Of the 34 newly confirmed Covid-19 cases, the majority are imported and two are locally transmitted. Contact tracing of all persons that the patients might have come into contact with is under way,” the NICD said.

The breakdown of the new cases is:

Gauteng:

  • A 41-year-old female who travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • a 43-year-old female who travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • a 37-year-old female with no international travel history;
  • a 54-year-old female who travelled to the UK;
  • a 58-year-old male who travelled to the UK;
  • a 38-year-old male who travelled to France;
  • a 70-year-old female who travelled to the US;
  • a 30-year-old male who travelled to Spain;
  • a 45-year-old male who travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • an 85-year-old male who travelled to Switzerland;
  • a 64-year-old male who travelled to Vietnam and Thailand;
  • a 41-year-old male who travelled to the Netherlands;
  • a 23-year-old male with pending travel history;
  • a five-year-old female with pending travel history; and
  • a 44-year-old male with pending travel history.

KwaZulu-Natal:

  • A 71-year-old female who travelled to the UK;
  • a 26-year-old male who travelled to Mexico and the US; and
  • a 29-year-old female with pending travel history.

Mpumalanga:

  • A 56-year-old female who travelled to France.

Western Cape:

  • A 53-year-old female who travelled to the UK;
  • a 30-year-old female who travelled to the Netherlands and Qatar;
  • a 45-year-old male who travelled to Mexico;
  • a 70-year-old female who travelled to the US;
  • a 25-year-old female who travelled to the UK;
  • a 37-year-old female who travelled to the UK;
  • a 43-year-old female who travelled to the US;
  • a 31-year-old male who travelled to Spain and the Netherlands;
  • a 53-year-old female who travelled to Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic and Germany;
  • a 22-year-old female who travelled to the UK;
  • a 63-year-old male who travelled to Switzerland, Czech Republic and Germany;
  • a 22-year-old male who travelled to Spain and the Netherlands;
  • a 32-year-old male who travelled to the US;
  • a 37-year-old male with pending travel history; and
  • a 34-year-old male with pending travel history.

Meeting with church leaders

The president was addressing the media on Thursday after meeting church leaders earlier in the day on ways to implement the government’s ban on gatherings of more than 100 people.

Ramaphosa described that meeting as constructive, as the church leaders agreed to cancel big meetings and services to prevent mass infection.

Head of the SA Council of Churches Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana condemned religious leaders who had been resisting the government’s calls for social distancing.

“Churches who refuse to do this could face charges of endangering [people’s lives],” he said.

Mpumlwana said the coronavirus situation was “worse than war”.

Leaders of other religious bodies voiced their support for the government’s efforts.

Maulana Ebrahim Bham, representing the Muslim faith, said some mosques had suspended prayers in congregation, while in other areas, congregations had been limited to smaller areas.

The Anglican Church, the Dutch Reformed Church and the Nazareth Baptist Church have also committed to supporting the government’s efforts.

Ramaphosa said church leaders had agreed on a national day of prayer amid the pandemic.

Mkhize speaks to private labs

In a statement, Mkhize said he held an “urgent teleconference” with executives of private laboratories that are performing the Covid-19 tests.

“At this meeting, the private laboratories expressed their commitment and willingness to work hand in hand with government to perform the Covid-19 tests. The meeting acknowledged that in order to allow for consistent reporting of cases, all information will be sent to the NICD in real time. There will be collaboration and proper compilation of the results, thereafter it will be released to the public,” Mkhize said.


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