Zweli Mkhize on extending the lockdown, flattening the curve & more testing

01 April 2020 - 13:40 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said there were some promising signs regarding flattening the curve of the number of Covid-19 cases in SA, but urged caution, as it was still early days.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said there were some promising signs regarding flattening the curve of the number of Covid-19 cases in SA, but urged caution, as it was still early days.
Image: JACKIE CLAUSEN

Health minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday gave an update on the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic in SA during a press briefing in KwaZulu-Natal.

He discussed the use of masks as protective gear and said the implementation of the lockdown was showing signs of improvement in flattening the curve.

On Tuesday Mkhize said SA has 1,353 confirmed cases of Covid-19. He also confirmed five deaths from the respiratory illness, which is caused by the coronavirus.

Here are six takeouts from the minister's address:

Be vigilant in winter

The winter climate might affect the behaviour of coronavirus, causing more to get affected. 

“As we move towards the winter days the impact of viral infections, all sorts, is going to be heavy on all of us. We need to understand that all these precautions are helping us when we will have influenza. This, with Covid-19, makes it more complicated.”

Stick to the rules of lockdown

It's still too early in the lockdown to announce if the measures put in place are being effective, but if all citizens adhered to its rules, SA might win the fight against Covid-19, said the health minister. 

“Our modelling is already indicating that maybe we can make an impact. If we can stick to the guidelines that have been given, we will be able to make an impact on the infection. We need to charter our own history and conduct of how this virus has been dealt with.”

Backlog in laboratories

Ninety patients who tested positive for Covid-19 remain “unallocated”. This means that the health ministry does not yet have details on which provinces the individuals are from. The ministry has addressed this with the labs to avoid further delays.

“Unallocated means a delay in finding the identity of the patient, contact details as well as the contacts that need to be followed up afterwards. The sooner we get that information, the better for us.”

Local transmissions

The minister expressed concern about cases of local transmissions after cases were detected in Khayelitsha, Alexandra, KwaMashu and Soweto townships.

“We will be escalating testing and screenings of the patients. We will unveil mobile testing vans which we will deploy to a number of provinces, particularly where the problem is biggest. We will increase the number of field workers who will conduct the tests.”

Use of masks

The minister recommended the use of masks for protection against coronavirus. 

“Covid-19 is a droplet infection which means it can spread among people in close proximity or within a metre. It also spreads from surfaces for 10-12 hours. Masks are still very useful and must be used as much as possible.”

Duration of lockdown

It isn't clear if the lockdown will be extended beyond the 21 days. This will be determined by the spread of the infection during the remaining days of lockdown. Extension or not, citizens will have to make adjustments once the lockdown is over, said the minister.

“I don't think life will be normal after the 21 days, there has to be an adjustment in the way we behave ourselves and in the way we do things.”


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