SA's Covid-19 cases rise to 554

Health minister warns that country may still lose battle against spread of virus

24 March 2020 - 10:42 By Nomahlubi Jordaan and Aphiwe Deklerk
Dr Zweli Mkhize says people must not think they are safe from the coronavirus because of the lockdown. 'It is still vital to maintain social distancing and scrupulous hygiene to stop the virus from spreading.'
Dr Zweli Mkhize says people must not think they are safe from the coronavirus because of the lockdown. 'It is still vital to maintain social distancing and scrupulous hygiene to stop the virus from spreading.'
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sowetan

The number of Covid-19 cases has risen to 554, health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Tuesday.

Mkhize announced the department had recorded 152 new Covid-19 cases.

He said anyone who refused to be isolated when they tested positive for Covid-19 would  have their names published to warn the public to not get close to that person.

“If we ask you to go to quarantine, go to quarantine. If you don’t go to quarantine we will enforce it,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize said a person could face up to 15 years' imprisonment if they were in breach of the regulations around testing positive for Covid-19.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on March 23 2020 that the country will be going into lockdown for 21 days. The lockdown is expected to start on midnight March 26 2020 and end on 16 April 2020.

Mkhize also warned that the 21-day lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa did not mean the country was “safe” from the spread of Covid-19.

The move, he said, was aimed at managing the spread of the virus, especially internal transmission.

He used the transport sector, including trains and buses which transport around 16-million South Africans daily, as one of the reasons why government is trying to control the spread of the virus.

Mkhize said the number of positive cases were expected to go up for at least the first week of the lockdown.

“The lockdown helps us to reduce large numbers of people moving, where infection flow would actually be unmanageable. However, it does not mean lockdown on its own solves the problem,” he said.

He said the country still needed precautions in place because in the experience of China, where the virus originated, 75% of the spread happened in family settings.

“The hygiene of blocking your nose and mouth when you cough, watching your distance between someone who is coughing or sneezing, is still very, very important. The issue of washing hands and hygiene is still very, very important,” said Mkhize.

“People mustn't think ‘the president has declared a lockdown, we are now safe’. No, this creates an environment, a condition under which we can all fight against the spread of the infection,” he said.

All South Africans had a role in combating the spread of the virus, he said, and warned that the country may still lose the battle against the spread of the virus.

No death has been recorded in South Africa yet, although there are two patients in ICU at private hospitals.


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