Too early to celebrate, but Covid cases 'may be starting to decline': Mkhize

Health minister says mask-wearing, sanitising, social distancing and other level 3 restrictions are proving to be effective

18 January 2021 - 18:55
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says there was a 23% decrease in new cases nationally compared to the week before, offering a rare glimmer of light in the country's battle against the Covid-19 second wave.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says there was a 23% decrease in new cases nationally compared to the week before, offering a rare glimmer of light in the country's battle against the Covid-19 second wave.
Image: SOWETAN

For the first time in a number of weeks, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize shared some good news in the country's fight against the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

An admittedly cautious Mkhize, speaking during a briefing on the new coronavirus variant on Monday, said that there was some early evidence that the second wave was being brought under control.

“When we look at our records at this point, we can see that we are, possibly, beginning to see an inflection of the curve and we are also seeing that the numbers [of infections] may be starting to decline. But it is too early to celebrate,” he said.

Mkhize said measures that worked during the first wave of infections — particularly wearing masks, social distancing and sanitising — were proving effective this time about too.

A graph showing the current Covid-19 situation in SA, looking at cases, deaths and hospitalisations. The figures were presented on Monday evening.
A graph showing the current Covid-19 situation in SA, looking at cases, deaths and hospitalisations. The figures were presented on Monday evening.
Image: Supplied

Only last week was mask-wearing made compulsory in public places, as President Cyril Ramaphosa announced enhanced level 3 lockdown regulations.

“It has been encouraging to know that, despite the mutations, we are still able to protect ourselves with the amour that we have established. This week has seen some promising signs of decline in transmission. Yesterday [Sunday] we noted a 23% decrease in new cases nationally compared to seven days prior.

“This could be attributable to many factors, including enhanced physical distancing facilitated by lockdown regulations,” he said in prepared remarks.

Speaking off the cuff, he said: “We think what it [the reduction in new cases over the past week] shows is that there is already an impact from the use of masks, hand sanitiser, the distancing and all the other restrictions put in place; they are beginning to bear fruit. We need to persevere. They are just as effective in this wave as they were in the first wave.”

However, the minister said that the number of hospitalisations from the virus was still increasing.

“The health-care system continues to experience significant strain, with hospitalisations continuing to trend upwards, showing an 18.3% increase on January 16 compared to seven days prior. As at January 16, nearly 18,000 (17,878) patients were admitted, with 2,472 in ICU, 1,117 on ventilators and 5,850 requiring oxygen,” he said.

The health minister admitted that the regulations were “frustrating”, but said they were working.

“We must thank South Africans for adhering to the regulations, difficult and frustrating as it may be. Every sacrifice made has saved lives and we appreciate the patriotism South Africans are displaying to protect the sanctity of life,” he said.

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