153 deaths and 13,000 new cases, as Mkhize urges SA to be 'alive to the realities of Covid-19'

'If we politicise this matter, we are going to run into trouble'

23 July 2020 - 17:05 By Sthembile Cele
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Thursday urged all South Africans to make the right decisions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Thursday urged all South Africans to make the right decisions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Image: Siyabulela Duda / GCIS

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced 13,104 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, and has again pleaded with South Africans to do their bit in containing the spread of the virus.

Adding these to the overall figures provided on Wednesday night, it means there are now 408,052 confirmed cases of the virus in SA.

Mkhize on Thursday night announced that there were an additional 153 Covid-19 related deaths, bringing to 6,093 the country's death toll.

"The number of recoveries currently stands at 236,260 which translates to a recovery rate of 58%," said Mkhize.

The figures are based on 2,632,106 tests to date, with 46,632 conducted in the past 24-hour cycle.

Earlier in the day, Mkhize addressed parliament during his department's adjusted budget.

“There is no conscription for this war against Covid-19 — only consciousness. Every man, every woman, every child must be alive to the realities of Covid-19. We must understand that we are the product of our choices.

“We made some tough decisions which bought us some success. The choices we make in the coming weeks will be more important as we learn to work, socialise and live alongside each other,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize made the announcement as he tabled the health department's adjusted budget, where he faced the fury of MPs critical of his handling of the crisis. Amid the criticism levelled against the ministers was the clear inequalities of the health system, a shortage of health-care professionals as well as a repeated call from the DA for the embattled Eastern Cape health department to be placed under administration.

“To think that we could have corrected all the weaknesses of the system within the five weeks, I think it was to expect a lot. We have done a lot that we needed to do to try to prepare our health services.

“Of course there will still be weaknesses, and we will continue to go around to different provinces and try to bolster those areas of weaknesses and ensure that we prepare the country for the ultimate surge as it comes. It is not a once-off event — we have to do this every day.

“And I want to say that there are challenges in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Where there are challenges we will go there and assist at that level.

“We actually need to be very cautious about how much we comment on the figures in the Western Cape ... As we stand today, Western Cape still has the highest mortality and we actually are learning as to what is going on. A few weeks ago the figures in the Western Cape showed a bit of a plateau. That trend is now beginning to be seen in the Eastern Cape and in fact the mortality there is a bit lower than in the Western Cape.

“If we politicise this matter, we are going to run into trouble.”

Mkhize added that he was working to expedite the process of employing additional health-care workers by cutting some red tape.

“We are in the midst of the surge. We need to hold hands and work together. But it is true that shortages of human resources are a challenge which we must work on, and we continue to employ the numbers that we can find available.

“I have shortened the procedures so we can get as many people as possible. We will expect that our professionals will move from province to province as the situation arises.”

In his address, the minister said the department had been able to fill around 9,000 vacant posts in the system.

“We can never over emphasise that health workers are the backbone of our fight against this pandemic. It is therefore in our interest not only to recruit them but to take sufficient measures to ensure that they are protected in the performance of their duties.”

He said the pandemic had highlighted the need for infrastructure investment in the health system which had got under way and would pave the way for the National Health Insurance (NHI).

“Currently, a total of 20 hospitals and 34 primary health-care facilities were revitalised, seven primary health-care facilities constructed, and 39 facilities refurbished.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has also called for specific focus on the provision of additional ICU and high-care space, isolation wards and fever clinics with triage at existing hospitals.

“Provision of beds in emergency wards has also been prioritised. This applies either in existing facilities to be repurposed, or in field hospitals being prepared across the country for the surge in Covid-19 patients that will require hospitalisation.

“Oxygen systems and the equipment to support them have been procured. Linen and ward furniture have been upgraded.

“This improvement in infrastructure will remain as improvements to the capacity of the health system post-Covid-19.”

© TimesLIVE


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