Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize says South Africa has shown some progress in slowing the rate of spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but the battle against the disease is far from over.

The minister also announced that the number of positive cases has increased to 2003 with 24 deaths.  He says many of the 24 people who have died from the coronavirus also had other underlying conditions such as heart disease, cancers and pneumonia, 410 recoveries and some 73 028 tests were conducted.

South Africa has shown flattening of the rate of infections since the imposition of the lockdown and Mkhize says the country could follow the trend of some Asian nations that have been able to bring the spread of COVID-19 under control.

But Mkhize says it is up to every South African to join the fight against COVID-19. He says it is essential that South Africans obey the lockdown regulations, maintain good hygiene and maintain social distancing as much as possible.

The Health Minister has thanked President Cyril Ramaphosa for his leadership in extending the lockdown period to the end of April.

 Cases among health workers 

The health department is to investigate reasons behind the increase of coronavirus cases among health workers, especially, in private hospitals.

Mkhize says there are a number of private hospitals they are currently monitoring in KwaZulu-Natal. KZN has the highest number of deaths in the province with 12 fatalities recorded.

Briefing the media in Pietermaritzburg Mkhize says, “There have been concerns about a number of hospitals last week. I had written a letter to the MEC to actually send a team to look at a private hospital in Ladysmith which was done this week. We had to raise the issue of St Augustine.

“The main concern in that area has been the number of deaths in that hospital, but I’ve also had other concerns where I asked ‘they must go and monitor’. And that is like private hospitals; one Hibiscus Hospital; the other one is in Parklands; the other one is Shifa Hospital. These are being monitored specifically because there have been certain instances where we spotted some of the cases.”

The Lockdown has somehow slowed the spread of the disease. New infections have been hovering around 4%.

The Minister has warned health care workers against acting unethically by stopping work because they are dissatisfied about what they say is a lack of personal protective equipment like gloves and masks. Union, Nehawu, lodged a case in the Labour Court on the issue. The case was withdrawn after discussions with government. There have also been a number of instances where concerned staff stopped work.

“We are trained, just like the army. The army can’t say the other fellows are shooting. You are trained on how to face the bullet and you know how to deal with it. In this case, these are professionals, they are trained to defeat infections, they are trained to defeat COVID-19.”

South Africans encouraged to wear masks

Mkhize encouraged South Africans to wear masks as this has been scientifically proven, it’s one of the preventative measures.

He says people can also make their own cloth masks. Speaking in Pietermaritzburg, Mkhize said people can use even a handkerchief, but they must ensure that the mask has three layers. He emphasised that the issue of social distancing and regular hand washing should also go together with wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The next issue is the use of masks in addition to handwashing, sanitation. This issue of wearing masks is important. It is not one versus the other, it is everything together. And in this case, we are recommending that people can use cloth masks. Cloth masks we need to just try and make sure there is a three-layer kind of thing you can even use handkerchief which means all you do you fold this one way, and fold this other way those three together that gives you already three layers and then it can be turned into a mask you can use handkerchief but people can actually make their own masks just make sure that you try and keep those layers.”

Here are guidelines from the Health Department:




In the video below,  Denosa acting General Secretary Cassim Lekhoathi talks to the SABC News about the high number of staffers at St Augustine’s hospital in KwaZulu-Natal who have tested positive for COVID-19: