Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says government took all possible measures to protect South Africans from the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
Health officials appeared before Parliament’s Health Portfolio Committee to brief MPs on the vaccine roll out plan, acquiring more vaccines and the Delta variant.
The highly transmittable Delta virus, believed to be driving the third wave of COVID-19 infections in the country, caused the deaths of thousands in India. Various MPs argued that government could have prevented the Delta variant from coming to South Africa by refusing flights from India.
Those who say government was reckless when it didn’t refuse flights from India, are wrong, according to Kubayi-Ngubane.
She says regulations were strictly applied at all ports of entry.
“All travellers who arrived in the country within 72 hours must produce negative results. If you arrive and port health screens you and you show symptoms you are requested to go into isolation, for not less than 10 days. To say as a country we have been reckless, we have not put mechanisms in place to protect South Africans is not correct. It’s not true. Anyone who arrives, considered a safe zone, whether it’s Europe or any where, anyone must provide those tests.”
Kubayi – Ngubane says it would not have been prudent not to allow flights into the country. But government also did not want to contribute to stigmatising other countries.
“We as SA were first to complain when Beta variant was called SA variant. So you suffer twice, from pandemic and discrimination. ”
Kubayi-Ngubane says government is concerned about the low number of vaccinations of those above the age of 60.
She says they are looking at other approaches to the roll out, such as vaccinating other groups alongside a specific age group.
One in four possibly infected
Meanwhile, the Deputy Director-General of the Health Department Dr Anban Pillay says figures indicate that one in every four people in the country are infected with the COVID-19 virus.
“The percentage testing positive is the level of 24/25% which is one in four, higher in some provinces such as GP with 30%. A significant number of people testing positive. Usually gives sense what to anticipate depending on where you are, so for one in four or three people depending on where you are. You can assume that one of those individuals are infected,” says Pillay.
Provinces must prepare for Delta variant
Renowned epidemiologist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, has called on all provinces to prepare their healthcare facilities for the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
Health workers in Gauteng are already under heavy pressure as coronavirus patients fill available hospital beds.
Prof Karim says South Africa is yet to witness a rapid increase nationwide due to the transmissibility of the Delta variant.
“It’s been spreading in a way that is somewhat unusual compared to the past, in that now you get whole families infected. It’s not going to stay in Gauteng. By virtue of the Delta virus in the whole world, there is nothing to protect any of our other provinces. We are going to see the virus get to the other provinces. My big concern is that when it does, and when it really starts taking off, we will start seeing a very rapid increase in cases,” adds Karim.
Prof Karim on the country placed into Lockdown Level 4: