The storm, dexamethasone & hotspots: Zweli Mkhize on Covid-19

09 July 2020 - 12:22 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Health minister Zweli Mkhize says in all areas the focus continues to be on prevention of new infections, containment and mitigation and recovery.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize says in all areas the focus continues to be on prevention of new infections, containment and mitigation and recovery.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sowetan

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize addressed the National Assembly on Wednesday on the state of the Covid-19 pandemic in SA. He warned that the storm is approaching and said South Africans need to stay safe now more than ever before.

There are now 224,665 confirmed Covid-19 cases nationally and 3,602 deaths.

Here are five important takeaways from Mkhize's address:

Western Cape and Gauteng

The minister said infections in Gauteng were growing fast and expressed concerns that the province would soon surpass the Western Cape as the country's Covid-19 epicentre.

On Wednesday evening, the province had already surpassed the Western Cape, according to stats shared by the minister on Twitter

“We expect Gauteng to have the most confirmed cases, thus making it the epicentre. We have used a differentiated approach in our response through a classification of districts as areas of vigilance and hotspots. In all areas the focus continues to be on prevention of new infections, containment and mitigation and recovery.”

More hotspots after hard lockdown

Mkhize said shortly after SA eased the lockdown and went on level 3, there was a surge in cases and hotspot areas, with the Free State and North West confirmed as hotspots.

“After June 1, the number of Covid-19 cases increased across all provinces. During level 4 of the lockdown, the Western Cape, Gauteng, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had hotspots. However, moving to level 3 of lockdown, two additional provinces registered hotspots.”

Quarantine facilities and screening

The minister said as of Wednesday, there were more than 12,000 beds in quarantine facilities and more than 20 million people had undergone Covid-19 screening in hotspots.

“The community screening and testing programme initiated on April 7 has ensured that more than 20 million people have been screened and 302,713 suspected cases have been referred for testing. Screenings in identified hotspots and emerging hotspots show that the CST programme has assisted in active case finding.”

Infections among health-care workers

The minister said the government has programmes in place aimed at addressing infections among frontline health-care workers.

“A targeted training programme has been designed and implemented to enhance the understanding of the pandemic and facilitate application of these guidelines, which primarily include infection prevention and control as well as case management.”


Dexamethasone

Mkhize said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has provided a guideline on the usage of dexamethasone, a steroid drug which has been found to significantly reduce death rates among Covid-19 patients.

“In selected hospitalised patients, a short course of dexamethasone can reduce deaths from Covid-19. The injectable form of this medicine is available in the country and will immediately be used in selected patients.”


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