IN QUOTES | Zweli Mkhize: the risk of being forced back into hard lockdown remains very real

30 September 2020 - 10:09
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has warned South Africans not to let their guards down.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has warned South Africans not to let their guards down.
Image: Photo by Gallo Images/Phill Magakoe

Health minister Zweli Mkhize says complacency in communities could be a leading cause of Covid-19 deaths in the future and result in a second wave of the pandemic more devastating than the first.

Mkhize, who delivered the keynote address at the World Environment Health Day webinar on Tuesday, highlighted the importance of environmental health.

He said the risk of complacency could become SA's “biggest drawback" and result in a new spike in infections.

Mkhize's statement comes after he reassured the public on Monday that the country was “now past the surge”. 

Here are key quotes from Mkhize's address.

Environmental conditions will determine success in the fight against Covid-19

The environmental conditions that people live and work in, the availability and quality of water and sanitation, the management of our borders, attitudes, and habits of hygiene practices, and the management of the infirm and deceased, determines the success or failure of our mitigation measures against Covid-19.”

Possibility of hard lockdown 

“Having witnessed a resurgence in many countries around the world, we must proceed with the same level of vigilance and care, understanding that the risk of being forced back into hard lockdown remains very real.

“We can never allow the virus to run rampant, causing huge loss of life, untenable strain to the health-care system and wreaking environmental havoc.”

Public health dynamics

“The science of environmental health is based on the premise that prevention is better than cure, as this profession is concerned with the key environmental factors at the heart of public health dynamics.

“This was most evident in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic response, where the work of environmental health practitioners became even more critical.

Collaborative response

“Covid-19 has again reaffirmed the reality that diseases know no borders and no country is immune to the socio-economic devastation that follows the arrival and spread of a new and unfamiliar pathogen. The pandemic also reinforced the need for countries to pursue a more collaborative response, particularly at a regional level.”

Cataclysmic rebound effect

“This pandemic has compelled us to mount a multisectoral, well-integrated response that favours multilateralism over nationalism. We understand better than ever before that leaving anyone behind will only result in a cataclysmic rebound effect — environmental health understands this better than anybody.”

Covid-19's legacy 

“As a legacy, we have to use this pandemic to ensure that environmental health systems at implementation level are strengthened for the future. The national norms and standards for environmental health provide an opportunity to achieve this.

“Adequate numbers of skilled professionals must be employed and continually developed to deal with pandemics, emerging, and re-emerging diseases and current environmental challenges that may have potential negative affects on human health.”

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