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The modelling available to the health ministry puts South Africa’s potential number of Covid-19 cases between 34 000 and 50 000 and forecasts a peak in infections around mid-July, in a pessimistic scenario, health minister Zweli Mkhize told MPs on Wednesday

In a more optimistic scenario, novel coronavirus infections were likely to peak in mid-August.

Mkhize said the projections were “not cast in stone”, and were constantly being updated with new, localised data as Covid-19 became more entrenched in the country, he said in response to questions in a virtual meeting of the National Assembly.

Early modelling was particularly problematic, Mkhize said, as it relied on the progression of the coronavirus in other nations, in the absence of data within South Africa.

It has been widely reported that before implementing a hard lockdown in late March, the government was confronted with modelling suggesting more than 350,000 people could succumb to the virus.

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“They took models from all over the world but did not have direct data relating to what is happening in South Africa,” said Mkhize.

“The models will improve as time goes by and more data comes in from South Africa.”

He said it was now a question of seeking to know how many people may be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, as this would give a clear picture as to what percentage of the population was being infected. However, this was constrained by a lack of testing material.

He said the ministry was currently doing everything it could to procure more diagnostic material amid a worldwide shortage. But Mkhize reiterated that medical officials could increasingly rely on clinical diagnostics to determine whether somebody was infected and needed to be confined.

Mkhize gave more detailed data on the regions that have been declared Covid-19 hot spots because they had an incidence of more than five infections per 100 000 members of the population.

The most stricken hots pot by far, is the Cape Town metro with 117,2 infections per 100 000 residents, followed by Buffalo City at 43,5, Nelson Mandela Bay metro at 26,1, the Cape Winelands district at 22,2 and Eland’s Bay at 21,3.

The list also includes Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape with 13,6, Ekurhuleni with 13,2 and eThekwini with 12,1.

Mkhize said the hot spots would see increased efforts to contain transmission but stressed that the whole country would move to Level 3 lockdown.

Concern arose after he addressed the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday and said that hotspots would be kept at level 4 when the rest of the country moved to Level 3 by 1 June.

The minister said his presentation to the NCOP mistakenly included “an old slide” that contributed to this perception.

He added, however, that stricter confinement instructions and restrictions on movement could be introduced in hot spots if other interventions, specifically tracing, self-isolation and quarantine of likely cases, failed to drive down transmission levels.

“If the spread of the infection is not contained despite the above mentioned interventions, government will make a determination on whether to return that specific area, (i.e. metropolitan, district, sub district, ward) to alert Level 4 or 5,” he said in statement issued by the ministry.

“This will be done rapidly and in an effort to contain and manage the spread, and also to ensure that our health facilities are not overwhelmed by the rapid rise of positive cases in that area.”

Mkhize said there was now intensive focus on the Covid-19 crisis in the Western Cape and lauded the work being done by health care officials and workers in the province. The metropolitan area has been subdivided into eight zones, which consisted of clusters of municipal wards, as teams focused on containing community transmission.

Twenty-eight of the 217 Cuban doctors seconded to South Africa had been integrated into the province’s public health system, and many were deployed at field hospitals.

“I must say this team in the Western Cape are trying their best to try and contain the outbreak…. South Africa has to contain the pandemic in the Western Cape if we are to succeed in the rest of the country,” he said.

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Author: ANA Newswire