Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has updated the confirmed number of Covid-19 infections to 709, a 28% increase from Tuesday…
Speaking to the SABC on Wednesday, he said the Free State jumped because of 30 confirmed cases from a church in Bloemfontein.
The Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Divine Restoration Ministries in Bloemfontein saw five Covid-19-infected foreigners from the US, Israel and France taking part. Government is still looking for some of the 300 people who were there.
ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe, ACDP MP Steve Swart and pastor Angus Buchan attended, and all three have been tested.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said Meshoe was among the leaders of political parties represented in Parliament who had met Ramaphosa in Cape Town last Tuesday.
— National Health Insurance – NHI (@NationalNhi) March 25, 2020
Meshoe would therefore also have been with the leaders of other major parties, including the EFF’s Julius Malema and interim DA leader John Steenhuisen.
“We are looking at refining the definition of those who get tested for coronavirus,” said the health minister, adding that there were no doubt many more infections in the country. He conceded that the cost of the test was “very high”, at about R1,400 in the private sector, and that the delay in testing was being caused by having to move testing samples around the country to private labs.
Government was negotiating with private labs to lower the cost of the tests, with the minister saying it was unacceptable for anyone to be “profiteering” during a health crisis.
#CoronaVirusUpdate MEDIA ALERT: The second media briefing will take place at 16:00 led by Ministers of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster together with Governance, State Capacity and Institutional Development (GSCID). Venue is GCIS, Auditorium #CoronaVirusInSA
— GCIS Media Liaison (@GCISMedia) March 25, 2020
He clarified that the latest figures were from about 8pm on Tuesday.
“The [testing and results] delay has shortened. We’re trying to reduce the lag. The other issue is that the numbers of people who test is from the numbers of people who go to the doctor to test, and how fast the labs can test.” He added that the policy was not to test people on demand.
“We’re doing tests on the basis of symptoms.”
Government had already clarified this month that people wanting a test despite not showing any symptoms would have to pay for it themselves.
The minister was encouraged by the fact that five patients had gone from positive to negative within a short space of time and the country was yet to record its first coronavirus-related fatality. He also said most patients were showing signs of recovery, and only two people were in ICU in hospitals.
“This virus will not be defeated by doctors and nurses, it will be defeated by our people,” #ZweliMkhize says. He is urging people to abide to #21daysLockdown rules, social distancing and hygienic measures. #CoronavirusInSA #Covid19SA
— National Health Insurance – NHI (@NationalNhi) March 25, 2020
Three doctors had tested positive.
About 80% of people contracting the virus would only ever exhibit mild symptoms and would be able to self-isolate and recover successfully at home. He cautioned that treatment would have to be guided by the patient’s doctor.
“There is no cure for this virus. We can only treat the symptoms. Most people will not need any treatment.” He added that there was no evidence that ibuprofen worsened patients’ conditions, while he was aware that people were using chloroquine and other antivirals, though it was too soon to have definitive information on what was being truly effective.
As for a vaccine, numerous countries were making strides in developing one, though it was unlikely to be available anytime soon. Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande said on Tuesday that South African researchers had started on creating a vaccine, but it could take as long as 18 months.
The health minister told the SABC he was not aware of a “second virus” starting to kill people
The question may have related to reports of a death in China caused by the hantavirus. He said that the country was entering the regular flu season, which would complicate the health sector’s efforts to battle Covid-19.
He added that it was essential that people be prevented from taking public transport, including taxis, trains and buses, during the 21-day lockdown.
“For the three weeks, people who must move must not be moving in the way we normally do.”
Globally, there were more than 420,000 recorded globally on Wednesday morning, with nearly 19,000 fatalities and about 110,000 recoveries.
On Tuesday, the infection figure was at 554, suggesting the country has been battling “community infection”, the point at which the outbreak becomes particularly difficult to contain without drastic measures.
A full nationwide lockdown comes into effect at midnight on Thursday, with South Africans only allowed to exit their homes for limited reasons, and only a specified group of essential workers allowed to move about for specified work reasons.
Mkhize said on Tuesday that the priority was to flatten the infection curve; people should not have a false sense of reassurance that the lockdown would make anyone any safer. People still needed to wash their hands and take all the same precautions individually to prevent the spread.
He warned that numbers would continue to increase, but the infection rate would hopefully start to come down within two to three weeks.
“We are trying to freeze the movement of the virus. In the next week or two, the numbers will have grown by three or four times or so. We mustn’t be shocked when we see them increase. But it won’t happen tomorrow or next week.”
“Taking the dog for walk, going to the shops to buy food and essentials should be fine,” he said. “We want to avoid people congregating in large numbers, as well as panic buying. We ask people to exercise restraint, even with the people in your own house.”
A turnaround would take “a couple of weeks”, he said on Tuesday.
Containing everyone for 21 days would allow people to prevent the spread of the virus to others if they were infected.
“We will thereafter engage the public to give further details and explanations on the results including the significant rise, the ongoing testing processes, each province’s progress on contact tracing efforts,” said Mkhize.
“We want to discourage people moving around during the Easter Weekend. You need to be in the same location over the three-week period,” said Mkhize on Wednesday.
He explained that the lockdown would not be targeting the movement of cars, as such, as it was more important to focus on preventing the social mixing of people.
Charles Cilliers – Citizen
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