Zweli Mkhize hints at tightened Covid-19 lockdown in Eastern Cape
Hours of movement, impact of alcohol on hospital admissions up for discussion
Health minister Zweli Mkhize says local lockdown restrictions will be discussed for Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape - a province that accounts for about 50% of SA’s daily Covid-19 cases.
He was speaking during a visit to the province on Thursday, where he said urgent decisions were needed to contain the spread of the virus.
“We are here because there is clearly a resurgence in the Nelson Mandela Bay. Indeed, it is a concern that we are seeing in a few other areas. The whole country has got bubbles of small cluster outbreaks which we are seeing, but they are transient. Nelson Mandela Bay has continued to fester and in effect our concern is that something has to be done,” he told a delegation at Nelson Mandela University.
“We have seen the numbers of positive cases increasing in Nelson Mandela Bay and Eastern Cape. We have seen the number of people admitted in hospital has increased, the numbers of people recorded to have lost their lives has also increased and the percentage of people positive has also increased.”
He was addressing senior officials from the national department of health, their counterparts in the provincial department and members of the executive at the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
The minister said the province accounted for 50 to 55% of the country’s daily positive cases followed by the Western Cape with about 25% of daily cases. There was also activity in the Buffalo city area and along the Garden Route.
Mkhize’s visit to the Eastern Cape comes a day after Western Cape premier Alan Winde said there had been a Covid-19 resurgence in the province. Winde and his cabinet will meet on Friday to discuss limiting the movement of people to halt the spread of the virus.
He said a differentiated approach was needed in the management of hotspots, or areas of high transmission of the virus.
“In this case, the whole of Nelson Mandela Bay would probably now deserve ... additional restrictions considered,” he said, adding that there would be consultations about these.
There would also be a look at businesses not complying with containment measures, he said.
“In that regard we’ll have to look at what additional restrictions are needed ... I think that when you have got the numbers as they are now, we need to start restricting the hours of movement, particularly late hours of movement, and hours of activities. So we need to begin to discuss those issues because in some instances there are things that we can do that will help to reduce the spread.
“We also have to look at the numbers in the hospitals to be able to look at the impact of the alcohol-induced pressure and therefore start discussing issues in that regard. Everything is going to be based on evidence that we get.”
Co-operation by the community was vital to slow the spread of infection, he said. “It’s important for us to understand that we will not defeat Covid-19 in the hospitals. Hospitals will save lives; in the community we defeat the pandemic. The difference is huge.”
He said a clear message needed to be sent out to the community about social distancing and the wearing of face masks.
Mkhize and his delegation plan to visit shopping centres to see if Covid-19 prevention measures are being adhered to where people congregate.
They will also meet traditional, community and religious leaders and visit bars, shebeens and taverns to speak to those in the industry about mitigating the risk of infection at places where alcohol is consumed.
On Friday, the minister is expected to continue the programme with visits to hotspot areas.