Mkhize's juggling act to prioritise funds for Covid-19 pandemic

Health department will spend R9bn to continue fight against Covid-19, minister tells parliament

13 May 2021 - 17:02 By amanda khoza
Health minister Zweli Mkhize addressed the National Assembly on Thursday during a debate on the annual budget for his department. File photo.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize addressed the National Assembly on Thursday during a debate on the annual budget for his department. File photo.
Image: GCIS

Health minister Zweli Mkhize has told parliament that his department will spend R9bn to continue the fight against Covid-19.

Mkhize was addressing the National Assembly during a debate on the 2021/2022 budget for his department.

Mkhize revealed that most of his department's service delivery projects have had to be pushed back to reprioritise resources towards fighting the pandemic. 

However, he said there were lessons that were learnt. 

“The impact of Covid-19 has emphasised the necessity of investing in long-term resilience and sustainability of health systems to enable us to better respond to future health emergencies and crises,” said Mkhize, while delivering his R62.5bn budget.

He said the pandemic had caused social and economic devastation globally, and he was concerned that a third wave of Covid-19 infections was on the horizon as the winter season entered full swing.

“In our country, this [Covid-19] resulted in 1.6 million positive cases, 10.9 million tests done and 54,968 associated lives were lost, although 95% of those affected have recovered.

“The Covid-19 cases have started to rise significantly and we may find ourselves in the third wave. Of concern has been the emergence of B.1.351 in our country and the importation of B1.617.2 variant from India and B.1.1.7 from the UK,” he said.

Mkhize said citizens had the responsibility to continue abiding by non-pharmaceutical interventions to reduce the risk of infection and prevent a third wave of infections. These include washing hands, sanitising, wearing masks and social distancing.

On Monday the government is due to begin phase 2 of the national vaccination programme, which is targeting those older than 60, along with citizens with comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes.

This comes as the government is pushing to conclude the Sisonke Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccination rollout, targeting about 500,000 healthcare workers. When phase 2 of the vaccination programme starts, some members of the population will be inoculated with the J&J vaccine while others will receive the double-dose Pfizer vaccine.

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