The Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, presented to a National Assembly plenary yesterday a statement on his department’s response to Covid-19 to date. It has been 104 days since the announcement of the national lockdown and various other government health interventions to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

From the onset, he warned of the worrying spike in infections in Gauteng. “We expect Gauteng will soon be the epicentre of this pandemic in the country. This has been detected due to the department’s classification of districts as a measure to prevent, mitigate infections and promote recovery while strengthening mechanisms for detection.”

This classification measure is one strategy embraced by the department and there is now a big emphasis on community engagement as one of the most effective interventions in arresting the spread of the virus. “There is a need for community cooperation and vigilance regarding the wearing of masks and the change of behaviour.” He argued that there is now a realisation that that is where the battle against the pandemic will be won or lost. 

In the long term, beating the disease will rely on devising a vaccine or some other drug to mitigate the spread of the virus. This will happen through coordinated research and ongoing emulation of best practices from other countries.

Meanwhile, his department has assisted the provincial healthcare system most affected to get access to critical resources. Dr Mkhize commended the bravery of the medical frontline staff who risk their lives to save the lives of others. “These are our heroes. We appreciate their dedication and commitment to caring,” he said. To avert any political interference that may hamper his department’s efforts, it now works hand in hand with trade unions to address concerns about the exposure of their members to infection.

Giving a report-back on the current model of projection of peaks and possible flattening of the curve, he said to date fewer people have been infected than previously predicted. “We are going ahead with our integrated strategies in anticipation of the peak around August.” 

He lamented the fact that the pandemic will cause many problems. It will create untold job losses, and impact on businesses and every part of our lives. He told the Members of the National Assembly that the wave of infections that South Africans were warned about is now upon us and it knows no race, gender or class. “Government can’t fight the pandemic alone; we need our social partners to curb its spread.” 

Abel Mputing

9 July 2020